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B.P.L. PLATE NC. 14: 7.3.46: 2U. 



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/ MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



OP 



? 

MADAME MALIBRAN. 



BY THE 

COUNTESS (DE MERLIN.) 

3 



4 oA 9. £~ t*H*> I > 



WITH NOTICES OF THE 



PROGRESS OF THE MUSICAL DRAMA 
IN ENGLAND. 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 
VOL. I. 



PHILADELPHIA: 

CAREY AND HART. 

1840. 



OfcjSGu. -fi--<XJJc Urvc<j 



ESTATE OP 

JOSEPH H. CENTER, 

JULY 14, 1903. 



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c.'SheKmaVAnd Co', printers 



CONTENTS OF VOL. I. 



INTRODUCTION. 

Progress of the Italian Opera in England previous to the 
performance of Mali bran, 13 

CHAPTER I. 

Manuel Garcia, the father of Madame Malibran. His talent 
as an actor and singer. He quits Spain and proceeds to 
France and Italy. His performance at the Opera in Paris. 
Commencement of Maria Garcia's musical studies. Her 
voice and intonation. Garcia's severity in the instruction 
of his daughter. Maria's fear of her father's displeasure. 45 

CHAPTER II. 

Contrast between Madame Malibran's feeble health and strong 
mental power. Her ardent temperament. Her self-denial, 
generosity, and charity. The unreserved frankness of her 
disposition. Difference between Maria Garcia and her 
sister Pauline. Promising talents of Pauline. Madame 
Malibran's performance of Desdemona. Effect she produced 
in the celebrated romance. Her power of sustaining the 
tones of her voice amidst the strongest excitement of feel- 
ing. Cause to which she assigned the acquisition of that 
power. 49 



11 CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER III. 
Madame Malibran's talent for drawing. Her caricatures. 
Needlework. Her power of conversing in various lan- 
guages. Incongruities in her disposition and manner. Her 
disregard of flattery. Her difficult musical exercises. Se- 
vere routine of study requisite for a public singer. - 54 

CHAPTER IV. 

Garcia's method of instruction. Grassini, Pizzaroni, Pasta, 
&c. Importance of the correct mode of exercising the 
voice. Garcia's remark on this subject. Defects of the 
old French school of singing. Method of practice for 
equalizing the different parts of the voice. Requisite exer- 
cises for soprano voices. Extempore exercises practised by 
Garcia's pupils. Importance attached by Garcia to the 
practice of Solfeggi. - - - - - 57 

CHAPTER V. 

Maria Garcia's first appearance in public. Rossini's arrival in 
Paris. His Siege of Corinth and William Tell. Revolu- 
tion in musical taste. Nuptial cantata. Amateur perform- 
ance. Bordogni and Isabel. Impressions produced by Maria 
Garcia's first public performance. 62 

CHAPTER VI. 

Maria Garcia's debut at the King's Theatre in London. An 
anecdote. Velluti. The duet from Romeo e Giulietta. 
Velluti's fiorituri. Extraordinary example of vocal talent 
on the part of Maria Garcia. Her improvised cadence. 
Velluti's jealousy. Garcia's departure for America. Maria's 
performance at New York. M. Malibran solicits her hand. 
Garcia's violence of temper. Maria in fear of her life. 
Her exclamation of alarm. 65 



CONTENTS. Ill 

CHAPTER VII. 

Maria Garcia's marriage. M. Malibran's bankruptcy. Garcia 
leaves the United States, and proceeds to Mexico. Noble 
exertions of Madame Malibran. She studies English sing- 
ing. Her success on the American stage. Her generous 
endeavours to relieve her husband. She leaves America 
and returns to Europe. Her arrival in Paris. Renews her 
acquaintance with the authoress of these Memoirs. Favour- 
able impression produced by her first visit. Anticipations 
of her success. The musical jury. The unbelievers con- 
verted. - - - - , , - - - 69 

CHAPTER VIII. 

Madame Malibran's debut at the Italian Opera in Paris. Her 
apprehension of failure. Disadvantages she had to contend 
against. Her triumphant success. Offers of engagements. 
She concludes an engagement with the manager of the 
Theatre Italien. Her debut in Desdemona. Versatility of 
her powers as a singer and actress. Remark of Crescentini. 
Madame Malibran withdraws herself from her husband's re- 
lations. She takes up her abode with Madame Naldi. Au- 
thority exercised by that lady. The Cashmere shawl. 74 

CHAPTER IX. 

The performance of separate acts of different operas. First 
introduction of that custom. Madame Malibran's disap- 
proval of it. Effects of the custom on a musical audience. 
Due preparation of the ear for musical enjoyment. Advan- 
tage of displacing the acts of an opera. Different impres- 
sions produced by musical compositions, according to the 
modifications of time and place. Contrary opinions some- 
times pronounced on celebrated singers. Sensations pro- 
duced by excessive delicacy of the musical ear. - 79 



IV CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER X. 

Mademoiselle Sontag's first appearance in Paris. Emulation 
of Madame Malibran. First duo sung by Madame Malibran 
and Mademoiselle Sontag. Enthusiasm excited by their 
joint performance. Greetings of friendship. Madame Ma- 
libran's simplicity of taste. Moderation in her personal 
expenses. Her liberality to her professional colleagues. 
Touching anecdote. Her talent for representing the bur- 
lesque characters of low comedy. Her taste for caricature. 
Private theatricals in her own house. Attack on Madame 
Malibran in Galignani's Messenger. Gallantry of the Baron 
de Fremont. Madame Malibran's letter to him. - 83 

CHAPTER XI. 

Madame Malibran's benefit. Wreaths and bouquets thrown 
on the stage. Madame Malibran's passion for flowers. 
Anecdote of her dying scene in Otello. Her visit to the 
Chateau de Brizay. The Countess de Sparre. Madame 
Malibran's rural rambles. Dangers to which she exposed 
herself. Assumes male attire and other disguises. Dr. 

D and the peasant girl. Hoax performed by Madame 

Malibran. Trait of delicate generosity. Inscription re- 
cording Madame Malibran's bounty. 90 

CHAPTER XII. 

Madame Malibran returns to Paris. Terms of her engage- 
ment at the Theatre Italien. The operatic company. Ma- 
dame Malibran's appearance in Matilda di Sabrano, the 
Gazza Ladra and the Cenerentola. The prison duet in 
the Gazza Ladra. Halevy's opera of Clary. Madame 
Malibran's impressive performance of the character of the 
heroine. She sets off for London accompanied by Madame 
Naldi. Her engagement at the King's Theatre. Her terms 



CONTENTS. V 

for singkig at private parties. Charitable act. Madame 
Malibran engaged to sing at Bath and Bristol. She pro- 
ceeds to Brussels. 96 

CHAPTER XIII. 

M. de Beriot. His disappointed love. Interest felt for him 
by Madame Malibran. She becomes attached to him. Re- 
monstrances of Madame Naldi. Madame Malibran hires a 
house in Paris. Extraordinary combination of talent at the 
Italian Opera in Paris. Madame Pizzaroni. Her unfortu- 
nate personal appearance. Her manner of singing. Gri- 
maces. Style of Madame Pasta. Joint performance of 
Mesdames Son tag and Malibran. De Beriot returns to 
Paris. Madame Malibran's reception of him. Her fear of 
public opinion. Sources of annoyance and mortification. 
Malibran's eccentric and capricious feeling. - - 103 

CHAPTER XIV. 

Proposed trip to St. Petersburgh. Madame Malibran's disap- 
proval of the scheme. Coldness between her and De Beriot. 
Elegant present sent by De Beriot to Madame Malibran. 
She learns to play the harp. Her extraordinary power of 
memory. Facility of learning her parts. Her capability of 
singing at sight. Chevalier Neukomm's mass. The lan- 
guage of signs. The deaf and dumb youth. Madame Ma- 
libran's conversation with him. Her riding and dancing. 
Singers usually indifferent dancers. - - - 111 

CHAPTER XV. 

M. Malibran arrives from America. His base deception pre- 
vious to his marriage. He agrees to live apart from his 
wife. Madame Malibran's wish to obtain a divorce. 
She writes to General Lafayette. The General's last 
love. Madame Malibran's taste for charades and riddles. 
M. Viardot. An anecdote. Madame Malibran's musical 
compositions. - - - - . - - 114 



VI CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XVI. 

Madame Malibran revisits England. Madame Lalande. Pro- 
fessional jealousy among public performers. Madame Ma- 
libran's description of the debut of Madame Lalande. II 
Pirato. Donzelli's bows. Personal appearance of Madame 
Lalande. Her tremulous tones. Madame Malibran's style 
of writing. Correspondence. Laporte's embarrassments. 
Madame Malibran's first performance at the King's Theatre 
in the season of 1830. Her own account of her success. 
Her anxiety to obtain a divorce. Lady Flint. Sir George 
Warrender. Incongruities in the disposition and feelings 
of Madame Malibran. 119 

CHAPTER XVII. 

Madame Malibran's favourite characters. She takes the part 
of Romeo, previously performed by Pasta. Her success. 
Madame Malibran's first acquaintance with Lablache. His 
excellent character. The Italian refugee. Subscription to 
enable him to return home. Madame Lablache, Donzelli, 
&c. Madame Malibran's subscription. Delicate performance 
of a generous act. -----. 129 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

Madame Malibran's occasional proneness to satire. Her pre- 
judices and dislikes. Her description of a lady of rank. 
The French revolution. Early intimation of that event 
communicated to Madame Malibran, The fear of political 
troubles. The Duchess de Canizzaro's soiree. The Duke 
of Wellington's flattering notice of Madame Malibran. 
Lucrative engagements. Her power of enduring fatigue. 
Rapid travelling. Reconciliation between Madame Mali- 
bran and De Beriot. They leave London for Paris. Ma- 
dame Malibran separates from Madame Naldi. Terms of 
her engagement in Paris. 132 



CONTENTS. Vll 

CHAPTER XIX. 

Differences between Madame Malibran and the directors of 
the Opera. Imprudent disregard of her health. Evil con- 
sequences of her over-exertions. Fainting-fit. Unlucky 
mistake. The manager's dilemma. A desperate remedy. 
Madame Malibran's frequent use of restoratives. False 
reports on this subject. Her indifference to pain and ex- 
haustion. 138 

CHAPTER XX. 

Garcia engages himself at the opera in Paris. Alteration in 
his voice. Madame Malibran's fears for her father's failure. 
Garcia's extraordinary musical talent. Anecdote related by 
Madame Rossini. Musical tour deforce. - - 142 

CHAPTER XXI. 

Madame Malibran performs Otello instead of Desdemona. 
Representation of male characters by women. Madame 
Malibran visits England and Brussels. She breaks off her 
engagement in Paris. Perplexity of the managers of the 
opera. Intercession of M. Viardot. Madame Malibran 
returns to keep her engagement in Paris. Her sudden 
refusal to perform. Cause of her indisposition. She forfeits 
some degree of her popularity. - 146 

CHAPTER XXII. 

Coolness of Madame Malibran's former friends. Her father 
and the Countess de Sparre refuse to see her. A dis- 
honourable suggestion. Madame Malibran's indignation. 
Her wounded feelings. General Lafayette interests himself 
to obtain her divorce. Legal discussions. Informality in 
the performance of the marriage ceremony. Garcia recon- 
ciled to his daughter. Joyful feeling excited by that cir- 



Vlll CONTENTS. 

cumstance. Madame Malibran's letter to the Countess de 
Merlin. De Beriot and his violin. - 150 

CHAPTER XXIII. 

Kind mediation of General Mina. Madame Malibran's last 
performance in Paris. The notes of th'e dying swan. Mali- 
bran's departure for Brussels. Her return to Paris in dis- 
guise. Her accouchement. Resolves not to sing again in 
public till she is married to De Beriot. An unexpected 
visit from Lablache. Madame Malibran's sudden departure 
for Italy. Her passport. Her performance at Rome. Un- 
favourable reception. French romances. - - 155 

CHAPTER XXIV. 

Madame Malibran's engagement at Naples. Jealousy of Ma- 
dame Ronzi de Begnis. Malibran's acting in the last scene 
of Desdemona. Donzelli. Madame Malibran's debut at the 
Fondo Theatre. Immense crowd on that occasion. She 
performs in the Cenerentola and the Gazza Ladra. Her 
interview with the King of Naples. Her extraordinary 
request to his Majesty. The King applauds her on her 
first appearance. Public performers in Italy. Madame 
Malibran rides on horseback. Aquatic excursions in the 
Bay of Naples. Imprudent bathing. - 159 

CHAPTER XXV. 

The King of Naples and Madame Ronzi de Begnis. Madame 
Malibran leaves Naples to fulfil an engagement at Bologna. 
Bolognese society. Gratifying reception of Madame Mali- 
bran. She is engaged to perform at Milan. Proposes to 
cancel her engagement She secretly quits Milan, and pro- 
ceeds to Brussels. Birth of her second child. - 165 



CONTENTS. IX 

CHAPTER XXVI. . 

Madame Malibran's alarming illness. Dr. Belloumini. First 
appearance of Madame Malibran on the English stage. 
Terms of her engagement at Drury Lane Theatre. Great 
attraction of her performance. Her musical tour through 
England. Neapolitan superstition. The cattiva sorte. 
Omission of the third act of Otello. Indifferent reception 
of Madame Malibran at San Carlos. A new opera by Pac- 
cini. Its failure. The funeral procession in Romeo e Giu- 
lietta. Failure of Coccia's new opera. Rural excursions, 
water parties, &c. Dangerous feat. Madame Malibran's 
performance of Norma at Naples. Impression produced 
by it. - - - . - .' - - - - 168 

CHAPTER XXVII. 

Madame Malibran's appearance at Milan. Recollections of 
Pasta. The acting of Pasta and Malibran compared. Ma- 
dame Malibran revisits England, to fulfil her professional 
engagements. Returns to Milan and Sinigaglia. The 
Chateau of d'Aucy le Franc. Surprise of the Marquis de 
Louvois. Illness of Madame Malibran. The Italian ballad- 
singer. Charity judiciously applied. - 173 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

Madame Malibran proceeds to Lucca. She is compelled to 
sing on the market-place of Sinigaglia. Curious scene. 
Admiration of the populace. Persiani's Inez de Castro. 
The Ducal court. Gallantry of the Duke and his nobles. 
New engagement at Milan and Naples. The finale in the 
Sonnambula. Extraordinary example of vocal execution. 
Madame Malibran's dislike to the character of Tancredi. 
The French hairdresser. 177 



X CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XXIX. 

Madame Malibran's friendship sought by persons of high rank. 
The pseudo-aristocracy of Naples. An anecdote. A gipsy 
party. The villa of the Prince of Capua. Forbidden ground. 
Warning disregarded. The Sbirri. Madame Malibran's 
expedient. - - - 183 

CHAPTER XXX. 

Road from Naples to Vomero. The Carmelite convent. Ma- 
dame Malibran singing the Tarantella. The funeral proces- 
sion. Madame Malibran and the priest. Hospitality of the 
monks. 186 

CHAPTER XXXI. 

The new opera of Amelia. Madame Malibran dancing the 
mazurka. Her love of dancing. Her deficiency in that 
accomplishment. Inez de Castro. Killing pigs in the 
streets of Naples. Madame Malibran meets with an acci- 
dent. Her faith in the homoeopathic system. Her per- 
formance of Inez de Castro on the night after her accident. 
Her remark to Mr. Young, the actor. A curious reply. 189 

CHAPTER XXXII. 

French society at Naples. Enlivening influence of Madame 
Malibran's presence. Her departure from Naples. Fare- 
well of her admirers. Arozzo. Madame Malibran's visit 
to the Lunatic Asylum. Effect of her singing on a lunatic. 
Her reception at Venice. The lottery. Lucky numbers. 
Lithographic prints. Madame Malibran's gondola. 193 

CHAPTER XXXIII. 

Madame Malibran's talent for sketching and for musical com- 
position. Arrival of the Marquis de Louvois at Florence. 



CONTENTS. XI 

Interest excited by Madame Malibran at Venice. The mys- 
terious serenades Madame Malibran's marriage declared 
null and void. 198 

CHAPTER XXXIV. 

Embarrassments of Signor Gallo. Madame Malibran's per- 
formance for his benefit. Crowded theatre. The divina 
cantatrice. Herculean labour. Drilling an orchestra. A 
panic. The white doves. Illuminated gondolas. The cup 
of wine. 202 

CHAPTER XXXV. 

Madame Malibran's remarks on herself. Visit to Brussels. 
Engagement at Drury Lane. Salary. Letter from M. de 
Beriot. Excessive fatigue endured by Madame Malibran 
during her London engagement. Her performance of Fi- 
delio. Grisi in the Puritani. Madame Malibran's engage- 
ment at Lucca. The cholera in Italy. Relics. - 206 

CHAPTER XXXVI. 

The cholera at Leghorn. Madame Malibran's letter to the 
Marquis de Louvois. Sanatory regulations. Journey to 
Milan. Dangers. Madame Malibran's courage. The 
muleteer. - -211 

CHAPTER XXXVII. 

The cholera panic. Difficulty of obtaining food. Money re- 
ceived in basins of vinegar. Madame Malibran's engage- 
ment at Milan. Terms of her contract with Duke Visconti. 
Domzetti's Maria Stuardo. Political allusions. Suppres- 
sion of the opera. High favour enjoyed by Madame Mali- 
bran at Milan. Attentions shown to her on her departure. 
Her arrival in Paris. Marriage of Madame Malibran and 
M. de Beriot. Musical party. Thalberg's performances 

VOL. I. B 



INTRODUCTION. 



PROGRESS OF THE ITALIAN OPERA IN ENGLAND PREVIOUS 
TO THE PERFORMANCE OF MALIBRAN. 

At the commencement of the eighteenth century, 
foreign fashions began to be so generally adopted 
in the higher circles of English society as to call 
forth the animadversions of the editor of the Spec- 
tator. In an amusing article on this subject, Addison 
confines his remarks exclusively to the adoption of 
French customs by his countrywomen, one of whom 
he describes as receiving company in her bed-room ; 
the last Parisian novelty introduced by those ladies 
who professed to have seen the world. " As I love 
to see every thing that is new," he observes, " I once 
prevailed upon my friend, Will Honeycomb, to carry 
me along with him to one of these travelled ladies, 
desiring him at the same time to present me as a 
foreigner who could not speak English, that so I 
might not be obliged to bear a part in the discourse. 
The lady, though willing to appear undressed, had 
put on her best looks, and painted herself for our 

VOL. i. 2 



14 INTRODUCTION. ' 

reception. Her hair appeared in a very nice dis- 
order, and the nightgown, which was thrown upon 
her shoulders, was ruffled with great care." 

Our admirable essayist has omitted in this paper 
all mention of the foreign amusements which the 
travelled ladies were at this period bent upon intro- 
ducing into England. Their native theatrical enter- 
tainments, though supported by the talent of Better- 
ton, and even the still more popular puppet-shows, 
were losing all attraction in their eyes, in conse- 
quence of their desire to indulge themselves in 
London in performances similar to those they had 
enjoyed abroad. The first steps towards the con- 
summation of this desire appeared in various con- 
certs and interludes, wherein foreign singers were in- 
troduced to public notice under the designations of 
i6 an Italian lady ;" Signor Gasparina, Signora 
Francesea. Margarita de PEpine, with her sister 
" Maria Margherita" The performances of these 
individuals formed the principal subject of conver- 
sation at basset and crimp, at the assembly, and the 
club ; and their popularity led to the getting up of 
an opera "in the Italian manner" at one of the 
theatres. Thomas Clayton, a member of the royal 
band, produced at Drury Lane the first attempt of 
this kind, which was an English version of an opera 
performed at Venice, in the year 1677. He styled 
it "Arsinse, Queen of Cyprus." It was sung in 
recitative, as in the original, and exhibited to the 
public by private subscription, as well as by money 



INTRODUCTION. 15 

taken at the doors of the playhouse. It was fol- 
lowed by another translation, entitled "Camilla," 
got up in a similar manner. 

These operas succeeding, Congreve and Sir John 
Vanbrugh, on the first night of opening their new 
Haymarket Theatre, performed a translated opera 
called the " Temple of Love :" but the music being 
German, and the fashion of that time, as at the 
present, inclining chiefly towards the compositions 
of Italian masters, the speculation of these old 
dramatists was not a successful one. Addison en- 
deavoured to administer to the growing taste by 
writing an opera called "Rosamond," to which 
Thomas Clayton attempted to compose ; but as this 
was not only not an Italian production, but about 
the poorest stuff that ever assumed the name of 
music, its existence lasted only three nights. It 
was succeeded by " Thomyris, Queen of Scythia," 
from the pen of Motteux, with a selection from the 
compositions of Scarlatti and Bononcini; which, 
although not so much relished at first as " Camilla," 
the following season rivalled it in popularity for a 
period of six weeks — they being then played at 
Drury Lane on alternate nights. 

In these operas the performers were a motley 
crew, half English and half Italian ; and as it was 
not always possible for the latter to employ the 
translation, some were heard singing their portion 
of the libretto in their native tongue, while their 
coadjutors proceeded in English. The most cele- 



16 INTRODUCTION. 

brated of them were Valentini Urbani, an Italian 
female styled " the Baroness," Hughes, Lawrence, 
Ramondon, Leveridge, Margarita, Mrs. Tofts, Mrs. 
Lindsey, and Mrs. Turner. 

As an example of the poetry of these transla- 
tions, we give the following passages from " Love's 
Triumph." 

" No more trial 
Nor denial ; 
Be more kind, 
And tell your mind ; 
So tost, 
So crost, 
I'm sad, 
I'm mad ; 
No more then hide your good nature, 
Thou dear creature ! 

"Balk no longer 
Love nor hunger, 
Both grow stronger 
When they're younger; 

But pall 

And fall 

At last 

If long we fast." 

In the following year an effort was made to in- 
troduce French dancing in a new pastoral opera 
called " Love's Triumph," written by Cardinal Ot- 
toboni, the music by Carlo Cesarini Giovanni, and 
Francesco Gasparina ; but it w r as in vain to make 



INTRODUCTION. 17 

any attempt to divert popular taste from Italian 
music. The ensuing winter was distinguished by 
the arrival in this country of the celebrated Nicolini 
Grimaldi — the Nicolini mentioned by Addison in his 
Journal of a Woman of Fashion. He appeared in 
a translated piece entitled " Pyrrhus and Deme- 
trius," originally written by Adriano Morselli, with 
music by Alexander Scarlatti, but now arranged 
with a new overture and additional airs by Nicolo 
Hayrn. Nicolini sung Italian, but despite of the 
confusion of the two languages exhibited in the 
opera in which he performed, it speedily became so 
great a favourite that he chose it for his own 
benefit, which took place January 5th, 1709. This 
singer was exceedingly fashionable, and obtained 
eight hundred guineas for his services for the sea- 
son. At that period this was thought an enormous 
sum, but it is little more than a week's salary for 
some of our performers of the present day. 

The confusion of tongues occasioned by one part 
of an opera being sung in Italian, and another in 
English, having at last been found intolerable, the 
first performed entirely in Italian was produced in 
January, 1710. It was called" Almahide," and the 
music has been attributed to Bononcini. Nicolini 
and Margarita took the principal parts, and in the 
production allotted them they were enabled to exhibit 
vocal effects hitherto unknown in England. The 
music became remarkably popular. The com- 
posers most approved of appear to have been 

2* 



18 INTRODUCTION. 

Scarlatti, Gasparini, and Bononcini, till Handel 
arrived in this country, when in the following year 
he produced in a fortnight his "Rinaldo," which 
speedily placed him on a footing with those distin- 
guished masters. After its success he was em- 
ployed every season in furnishing. new productions 
for the operatic company then performing at the 
Queen's Theatre — as the Opera House was at that 
time called. There he brought out his pastoral, 
" II Pastor Fido," which lasting only four nights, 
was followed in the succeeding year by his tragedy 
" Teseo," which was performed twelve times. In 
May, 1712, the same eminent composer produced 
his "Amadigi:" that enjoyed a more favourable 
reception, and in the following February was re- 
peated by command. This season was also distin- 
guished by the introduction of the viol d? Amour, an 
instrument which was first heard in this country in 
a symphony performed by Signor Attilio Ariosti, 
between the acts of Amadigi. During this period 
several other operas were played, but they met 
with no great success, and the company was dis- 
solved in 1717. 

The Italian opera, however, had obtained too 
many admirers in England to be thus easily dis- 
posed of; and although for three years no perfor- 
mance of the kind was attempted, the leaders of the 
fashionable world were busily employed in endea- 
vouring to re-establish it on a more solid foundation. 
With this object in view, in 1720 a fund of £50,000 



INTRODUCTION. 19 

was raised by subscription, to which the king con- 
tributed £1,000, to found an establishment, consist- 
ing of a governor, deputy-governor, and twenty 
directors, for the support and cultivation of musical 
genius in this country. Noblemen of the highest 
rank, and gentlemen of great wealth and influence, 
speedily became its officers. It was styled the 
Royal Academy of Music, and the patronage it 
possessed enabled the directors to engage the ser- 
vices of the three most eminent musicians then 
known, in order to create an Italian opera in Eng- 
land worthy of rivalling that in other countries : 
these were Bononcini, Attilio, and Handel. The 
last was started off in search of a company, and at 
Dresden he engaged Senesino, Berenstadt, Boschi, 
and the Durastanti, performers of the highest cele- 
brity. The house opened in April, 1720, with the 
opera called "Unsuitor," composed by Giovanni 
Porta of Venice, with scenery and decorations 
superior to those of any previous operatic repre- 
sentation in this country ; but it not being approved 
of, Handel, five nights afterwards, produced his first 
production for the Royal Academy of Music, " Ra- 
damisto," which, though only in the first season sus- 
taining ten performances, ultimately obtained consi- 
derable popularity. 

The "Narcisa" of Domenico Scarlatti was 
brought out May 30th, but was endured only 
five nights. In the autumn all the company had 
arrived, and Bononcini's" Astarto" was represented 



20 INTRODUCTION, 

with considerable success, but without producing 
any great sensation. The performances of the 
season, 1721, were "Radamisto" once, " Astarto" 
four times, a new pasticcio called " Arsace," and a 
new opera called " Muzio," in three acts ; of which 
the first was composed by AttiJio, the second by 
Bononcini, and the third by Handel. The following 
year the novelties were Handel's " Floridante," 
" Ottone," and " Flavius f Bononcini's « Crispo," 
and " Erminia ;" and " Caius Marcius Coriolanus," 
by Attilio Ariosti. Notwithstanding, however, the 
great exertions made by these celebrated com- 
posers, carried on with unabated vigour for several 
years, assisted by the talents of Senesino, and the 
rest of the company, the speculation was not suc- 
cessful. The subscribers were dilatory in paying 
their subscriptions, and the public papers contained 
advertisements threatening the defaulters with ex- 
posure of their names and the " utmost rigour of 
the law." This method of making patrons did not 
succeed, for the court of directors continued year 
after year to call for fresh payments, and in 1728 
it was discovered that the whole of the £50,000 
had been expended, together with the funds result- 
ing from the sale of tickets, and from the sums 
paid for admission at the doors, whilst debts had 
been incurred to a large amount. Here ended the 
Royal Academy of Music, but the Italian Opera 
still survived, as we find from this advertisement: 
" Mr. Handel, who is just returned from Italy, has 



INTRODUCTION. 21 

contracted with the following persons to perform 
in the Italian operas; Signor Bernacchi, who is 
esteemed the best singer in Italy ; Signora Merighi, 
a woman of a very fine presence, an excellent 
actress, and a very good singer, with a counter- 
tenor voice ; Signora Strada, who hath a very fine 
treble voice, a person of singular merit ; Signor 
Annibale Pio Fabri, a most excellent tenor, and a 
fine voice ; his wife, w 7 ho performs a man's part 
exceeding well ; Signora Bertoldi, who has a very 
fine treble voice ; she is also a very genteel ac- 
tress, both in men and women's parts ; a bass voice 
from Hamburgh, there being none worth engaging 
in Italy." 

This company fared no better than the preceding 
one. Although Handel brought out a multitude of 
clever productions, and obtained the assistance of 
the finest masters that were to be found, the Italian 
opera in England was not increasing in popularity. 
The Earl of Middlesex, at the head of a small 
body of noblemen and gentlemen, supported him 
for several years, but their assistance was not 
always wisely rendered, and in the end produced 
more mischief than good. It was not for want of 
liberality that the speculation was not successful 
Senesino obtained fifteen hundred guineas for a 
single season, and Farinelli, who was more popular 
in England than even Nicolino, after a short so- 
journ here acquired a fortune, purchased an estate 
in his own country, and to show his gratitude to 



22 INTRODUCTION. 

the source whence his wealth had been derived, 
erected there a temple, and had it dedicated to 
English folly. When Farinelli left the opera com- 
pany in the Haymarket, it was abandoned by the 
directors. Heidegger became its lessee, and en- 
gaged Handel to superintend its performances ; but 
the patronage he received was so limited, that 
towards the close of the season the manager put 
the following advertisement in the newspapers. 

" Opera House, May 24th. All persons that 
have subscribed, or are willing to subscribe, twenty 
guineas for an Italian opera to be performed next 
season under my direction, are desired to send ten 
guineas to Mr. Drummond, the banker, who will 
give them a receipt, and return the money in case 
the opera should not go on. 

Signed, "J. J. Heidegger." 

The subscriptions not coming in, no performance 
took place ; and Handel then hired the theatre of its 
lessee for the purpose of bringing out his oratorios. 
Here were heard his " Saul," " Alexander's Feast," 
" II Trionfo del Tempo e della Verita," and " Israel 
in Egypt." In 1739, the same composer produced 
his " Jupiter in Argos," a dramatic production, re- 
lieved by concertos on the organ; and in 1740 and 
the following year, he brought on the stage of the 
theatre at Lincoln's Inn, which he hired for the pur- 
pose, three musical entertainments, — his serenata 



INTRODUCTION. 23 

" Parnasso in Vesta," first produced in 1734, his 
operetta "Imeneo," and a musical drama, " Dei- 
damia ;" but the very slight impression they made 
induced Handel to confine himself entirely to the 
production of oratorios. A pasticcio entitled " Lucio 
Vero, originally produced in 1716, of which the 
chief portion of the music was his, was performed 
at the opening of the King's Theatre in November, 
1747, and was continued with remarkable success 
till Christmas, being the last of nearly fifty operatic 
productions this fertile writer had presented to the 
musical w r orld in England, that were performed at 
the Opera House previous to its being closed in 
1750, partly from the w r ant of support, and in some 
measure in consequence of the flight of the mana- 
ger Dr. Croza, who, not being more fortunate than 
his predecessors in office, made his escape before 
his speculation had led him to a prison. Bononcini 
entered into a spirited rivalry with Handel, but, 
talented as was this composer, he had no chance 
against the latter's wonderful resources. Pescetti 
was still less successful, and even the genius of 
Galuppi could not carry on the contest on any thing 
resembling equal terms. Pergolesi, Gluck, Paradies, 
Ciampi, and several other masters of less celebrity, 
were occasionally resorted to, but such of their 
works as were attempted would not bear compari- 
son with the master-pieces of the sublime Handel. 
Notwithstanding, however, his extraordinary genius, 
and the rapidity with which he produced his works, 



24 INTRODUCTION. 

and his continual endeavours to get together a com- 
pany worthy of performing them, the Italian opera 
was not heard in England for four years, when the 
arrival of the celebrated singer Mingotti, led to 
another attempt to establish it ; but even her exer- 
tions, assisted by those of the leader of the band, 
Giardini, an accomplished musician, who shared 
the management with Mingotti, did not meet with 
sufficient patronage. Signora Mattei and her 
husband Trombetta, vocalists of considerable re- 
putation, also had the honour of being nearly 
ruined by the same speculation. The most success- 
ful performances at this period w r ere the " Andro- 
maca" of Gomelli, and " II Filosofo di Campagna," 
by Galuppi — productions, the popularity of which 
reflect credit upon English taste. John Christian 
Bach arrived in this country from Italy, where he 
had deserved and attained great reputation as a 
composer, and was immediately engaged by the 
manager of the Italian Opera in the hope his genius 
would support that sinking establishment. Accord- 
ingly, in 1763, he produced his " Orione o sia Diana 
Vendicata," and "Zanaida;" and the remarkable 
talent they displayed attracted tolerable though not 
very productive audiences. The chief performers 
after this season were Signor Manzoli and Signora 
Scotti. 

The opera commenced, in 1765, under the ma- 
nagement of Messrs. Gordon, Vincent, and Craw- 
ford ; but these gentleman appeared to be hastening 



INTRODUCTION. 25 

fast to the fate of their predecessors, when they 
were saved from ruin for the time by the production 
of Piccini's delightful " La Buona Figliuola." " La 
Schiava," by the same composer, was also singu- 
larly successful, but his other efforts effected no 
such results. He was succeeded in public favour 
by the charming Sacchini and the no less distin- 
guished Anfossi, but their exertions were not more 
advantageous to the Italian opera in England, than 
had been those of Handel and Bach ; and, again 
overwhelmed with debts, and suffering from ruinous 
litigation, that establishment ceased, and was not 
revived for several years. 

It will be seen from what has been stated in these 
pages, that the patronage extended to foreign music 
till after the middle of the last century, was insuffi- 
cient for the support of an Italian theatre in London. 
Musical taste, however, was advancing in the best 
society of the metropolis, and professors of talent 
were liberally supported as teachers of the harpsi- 
chord, violin, and singing. Bach became instructer 
to the queen, and remained her chamber musician, 
and a fashionable composer also, till he died in the 
year 1782. Giardini was supported by many ladies 
of rank, in whose houses, he in conjunction with 
Signora Mingotti, frequently gave concerts. The 
prima donna and the talented violin player were on 
such occasions assisted by their own pupils, Mrs. 
Fox Lane, Lady Milbanke, and Lady Edgecumbe 
taking the harpsichord, while Lady Rockingham, 

vol. i. 3 



26 INTRODUCTION. 

the dowager Lady Carlisle, and Miss Pelham, ex- 
erted their vocal abilities. 

Among the other musical entertainments then in 
vogue, was the Ridotto, first introduced in this 
country in 1722, which consisted of a selection of 
songs sung chiefly by Senesinoi Baldassari, Mrs. 
Anastasia Robinson, and Salvai, after which the 
performers on the stage joined the company in the 
pit, by passing over a bridge that connected the two, 
which was a signal for the commencement of a 
ball ; this concluded the amusements of the evening. 
Ranelagh Gardens was the original speculation of 
Mr. Lacy, a joint patentee with Garrick in Drury 
Lane Theatre. They were prettily planned, ex- 
tending down to the Thames ; a superb orchestra, 
from which concerts of vocal and instrumental 
music were given, was erected in the centre of a 
capacious rotunda, with boxes for refreshments 
round the interior, in which part of the company 
sat whilst the rest promenaded in full dress before 
them. At first, the chief vocal pieces performed 
were oratorio choruses, but at a rival establishment 
(Vauxhall) solos for the voice had become so at- 
tractive, that it was found necessary to make them 
a principal feature in the performances at these 
gardens, and Beard, a celebrated tenor, and Prase a 
singer of considerable talent, were soon heard de- 
lighting their frequenters. A display of fireworks 
concluded the entertainments, which were often 
closed at an hour that allowed of a late supper being 



INTRODUCTION. 27 

taken at Vauxhall, which in the course of a few 
years superseded its fashionable rival in the public 
estimation. At this place, Lowe, Reinhold, and 
Mrs. Arne, were the first vocalists ; afterwards Mrs. 
Weichsell, the mother of Mrs: Billington ; Incledon, 
Dignum, Miss Feron, (since Mrs. Glossop,) Mrs. 
Bland and most of the popular singers of their time 
were heard here. For a considerable period Hook 
(the father of Theodore Hook the novelist) com- 
posed the Vauxhall ballads, which were usually the 
popular songs of the season. He was succeeded 
by John Parry, who, after labouring in his vocation 
as industriously as his predecessor, had to make way 
for Henry Bishop. These gardens have also been 
distinguished for possessing a fine band, particularly 
at the latter end of the last century, when the prin- 
cipal instrumental performers in the kingdom found 
places in the orchestra. 

Marylebone Gardens, another place of public re- 
sort, of greater antiquity than either Ranelagh or 
Vauxhall, were first brought into notice by its musi- 
cal performances in 1769, at which period they were 
purchased by Dr. Arnold, and having been newly 
decorated with considerable taste, were opened to 
the public with burlettas and other entertainments, 
for which the Doctor composed the music. 

Concerts were given in Hanover Square as early 
as 1763, at first by Bach and Abel, and continued 
to be a source of attraction for many years after ; 
musical entertainments of a similar nature were 



28 INTRODUCTION. 

held also in commodious rooms in other parts of 
the town, and on these occasions every novel per- 
formance was sure of attracting a full audience. 
Of the instrumental wonders witnessed in the first 
half of the last century, a few are worthy of notice. 
In 1703 Mrs. Champion, a singer of some cele- 
brity, performed for her benefit at Lincoln's Inn 
Theatre, the first solo ever publicly heard on the 
harpsichord. About the same period the first solo 
of Corelli heard in England was played on the 
violin by Mr. Dean: a few years later Master Du- 
bourg, a boy of twelve years of age, exhibited re- 
markable talent on the same instrument; and the 
extraordinary violin performances of Castrucci de- 
lighted the town soon afterwards. But the great 
musical marvel of the age was the performance of 
Mrs. Sarah Ottey on three instruments — the bass- 
viol, violin, and harpsichord. This was rivalled by 
Joachim Frederic Creta, on two French horns. 
The little prodigy, Master Knutzen, at seven years 
of age attracted crowds by his performance on the 
harpsichord; and another juvenile violinist, John 
Clegg, created no less astonishment. The ability 
of Cuporale and Pasqualino on the violoncello ; of 
Guiseppi van Martini, Vincent, and Kytch, on the 
hautboy; Boston, Wiedeman, and Ballicourt, on the 
flute ; Valentine Snow on the Trumpet ; Rosein- 
grave, Greene, Robinson, Magnus, James, Kelway, 
Keeble, Gladwin, and Stanly, a blind man, on the 
organ, displayed to the musical world what might 



INTRODUCTION. 29 

be done on their several instruments ; and Corbet, 
the first leader of the opera, did as much to prove to 
what advantage skilful playing might be cultivated 
in concerto pieces. These performances were not 
without producing satisfactory effects upon the 
lovers of music in England. Several amateurs 
became celebrated performers, and in some in- 
stances composers: as one instance of this, we 
mention the Earl of Kelly, a violin player of no 
ordinary ability, whose overture to the " Maid of 
the Mill" affords evidence of undoubted talent. 

Giardini increased the popularity of the violin, 
in which object he was ably assisted by Lolli, Pinto, 
Barthelemon, and Cramer. The viol da gamba 
found a most skilful player in Charles Frederick 
Abel; Crosdil and Cervetto were violoncello per- 
formers of great celebrity ; and Fischer made his 
hautboy discourse such music as effaced the im- 
pression left upon the public mind by his predeces- 
sors. While such attention was being paid to the 
orchestra, the voice was being cultivated with equal 
care. The principal foreign singers met with ta- 
lented pupils, who were afterwards found acquisi- 
tions to the English stage, and in some instances to 
the Italian also. A few of the most distinguished 
vocalists of the Italian opera, by acquiring a know- 
ledge of the English language, were enabled to 
obtain considerable popularity as singers of English 
songs. They assisted at oratorios, appeared at 
some of the English theatres, and were usually the 

3* 



30 INTRODUCTION. 

chief attraction at public concerts. In this state of 
things another attempt was made to establish an 
Italian opera in this country, which was com- 
menced under favourable auspices, with the arrival 
of Rubinelli and Mara, who first appeared in Lon- 
don in the season of 1786, in the opera of "Vir- 
ginia," composed by Tarchi. Madame Mara had 
sung for two or three years previously at a series 
of concerts which had been given every season at 
the Pantheon, in Oxford Street ; but in the opera she 
had more scope for the display of her fine voice, 
and there made a very powerful impression. Signor 
Rubinelli succeeded Pacchierotti, who had been 
almost as much admired by the ladies as his more 
celebrated countryman, Farinelli. He was equally 
efficient as a singer and as an actor, and for several 
years was the chief male attraction at the King's 
Theatre, the oratorios, and the principal public and 
private concerts. 

Mara had not long enjoyed her celebrity as a 
prima donna without finding it threatened by 
powerful rivals, in the persons of Signora Storace 
and Mrs. Billington. Storace made her first ap- 
pearance at the King's Theatre with Signor Borelli* 
a basso of remarkable talent, in Paesiello's comic 
opera, " Gli Schiavi per Amore," in which she es- 
tablished her reputation. Billington had made a 
name for herself as a singer of English operatic 
music, at the stage, the concert, and the oratorio, 
wherein she distinguished herself above every com- 



INTRODUCTION. 31 

petitor, till she left this country on a visit to Italy, 
where she stayed six years, and returned so im- 
proved, that Storace, who during that time had 
succeeded her on the English stage with an effect 
no other singer had produced there, found her popu- 
larity affected by her re-appearance. She was not 
engaged at the King's Theatre, at which her 
brother, Mr. Weichsell, was leader, till the season 
of 1802, when she made her first appearance on 
that stage on the 4th of December, in Nasolini's 
serious opera " Merope," wherein she produced 
such effect as secured her re-engagement the fol- 
lowing season, and her unrivalled popularity as 
long as her voice lasted. 

Although we had almost every season a new 
prima donna, not one attracted sufficient attention 
to be considered formidable to Mara, Storace, or 
Billington, till Madame Banti made her appearance 
on the 26th of April, 1794, in Bianchi's opera, 
"Semiramide o la vendetta di Nino." The repu- 
tation this accomplished singer had acquired in 
Italy had preceded her into England, but her per- 
formance proved her merits had not been exag- 
gerated. She was equally admirable in the bravura 
as in the cantabile, possessed a voice remarkable 
for its sweetness, pow r er, and flexibility, and was a 
graceful actress. She soon became fashionable, 
and the next season repeated her personification of 
the same character, having Michael Kelly as a co- 
adjutor, who on that occasion made his bow to an 



32 INTRODUCTION. 

Italian opera audience. Her fine singing and act- 
ing, aided by the operatic talents of Viganoni, Be- 
nelli, and Morelli, attracted such excellent houses at 
the King's Theatre, that at this period (about the 
close of the last century) the Italian opera may at 
last be said to be established in England. 

Music now began to be very generally cultivated 
in the higher circles. Concerts were held at the 
houses of several of the principal nobility, in which 
many of them assisted. The Prince of Wales and 
the Duke of Gloucester were performers on the 
violoncello, and the Duke of Cumberland on the 
violin, and they frequently joined the private 
orchestra at Carlton Palace, and at Lord Hamp- 
den's. The Duke of Queensberry and Lord Boyle 
were also liberal patrons of music. The profes- 
sional concerts were well attended, especially those 
of Salomon, which introduced into this country 
many distinguished musicians. On the violin Salo- 
mon, Jarnovicki, and Viotti; on the piano, Shroeter, 
Pleyel, Clementi, and Dussek, were the most cele- 
brated. Madame Gautherot, from Paris, also came 
forward as a violin player, and it has been asserted 
that she was the first female who attempted a con- 
certo on that instrument before an English audience; 
but she was preceded twenty years before by 
Madame Syrmen, whose performances excited 
great astonishment, as well as by Mrs. Sarah 
Ottey, mentioned in a previous page. Florio and 
GraefF were the principal flute players about the 



INTRODUCTION. 33 

conclusion of the last century ; Schwarts and 
Holmes on the bassoon, Mahon on the clarionet, 
Sarjent on the trumpet, Stamotz and Shield on the 
tenor. 

The taste of the musical public had undergone a 
considerable change during the last half of the 
eighteenth century. Handel was still popular, but 
only in his oratorios or concertos.* Bononcini was 
listened to no more in an entire opera. The harp- 
sichord lessons of Domenico Scarlatti, Alberto, and 
Paradies, had made way for the piano-forte sonatas 
of Haydn, Pleyel, and Dussek. The operas per- 
formed at the King's Theatre were usually selected 
from the works of Cimarosa, Gluck, Paesiello, Sarti, 
Sacchini, and Winter ; which having the advantage 
of a fine orchestra and a company of vocalists, the 
best the continent could supply, rarely failed of 
exciting intense admiration. By these judicious 
performances the Italian opera in England became 
so fashionable in this country that in the higher 
circles a box at the opera was thought as necessary 
as a residence in town. 

Madame Banti was retained as a favourite, not- 

* An attempt was made at the King's Theatre, in 1787, by 
Dr. Arnold, to make Handel's operatic music fashionable, by 
a selection of that master's productions, introduced in an 
opera called " Giuiio Cesare in Egitto ;" but even with the 
assistance of Mara and Rubin elli it was only heard a few 
nights. 



34 INTRODUCTION". 

withstanding that, besides being obliged to main- 
tain a contest with Mara, Storace, and Billington, 
she found rivals in Madame Morichelli and Madame 
Bolla, and in fact in every prima donna that made 
a successful appearance at the King's Theatre. She 
at last was forced to make way for Mrs. Billington, 
who was so much the idol of the musical public as 
to eclipse every competitor, till the arrival of the 
celebrated Grassini. It may be in the remembrance 
of veteran frequenters of the opera, the appearance 
of these accomplished singers in 1804, in Winter's 
opera, " II ratto di Proserpine," and how exquisitely 
their fine voices harmonized in the pathetic duo in 
the second act. Grassini showed herself an ad- 
mirable actress and a most expressive singer. Her 
voice was of a very rich quality, and she employed 
it with the talent of a superior musician. Viganoni 
was associated with them in the same opera, and 
the effect produced by them in the terzetto "Mi 
lasci" was a musical treat of exceeding rarity. The 
following season these celebrated singers were as- 
sisted by Storace, Morelli, and Braham, it being the 
first appearance of the latter gentleman at the 
King's Theatre, and the style in which they sang 
the music of Martini's beautiful opera " La Cosa 
Rara," proved a source of the greatest gratification 
to the subscribers. Braham was much admired. 
He had previously gained a well-deserved celebrity 
by his performances in several English operas at 



INTRODUCTION. 35 

Covent Garden, and by singing at concerts and 
oratorios, and the manner in which he acquitted 
himself on this occasion led to his re-engagement. 

At this period Madame Catalani was creating on 
the continent the great celebrity by which she for 
many years afterwards became distinguished, and 
such marvellous accounts of her execution had 
preceded her into this country, that when she made 
her debut at the King's Theatre, in Portagallo's 
grand serious opera, " Semiramide," the house was 
crowded to an excess never before known. Her 
rich, powerful, and flexible organ, and her easy, yet 
brilliant vocalization, excited the most enthusiastic 
applause, and by the time she advertised her benefit 
in the following season, wherein she performed the 
first act of the serious opera, " La morte di Mithri- 
date," and afterwards with the same brilliant suc- 
cess appeared in the first act in the comic "II 
fanatico per la musica," she had displaced Mrs. 
Billington as the reigning favourite. Her popu- 
larity now became immense. She was the first 
singer called on to sing one song three times, which 
occurred during her performance in the Italian 
comic opera, " La Freschetana." Her success 
spoiled her. She became arrogant and capricious, 
and exacted for her engagements terms unparal- 
leled in the annals of foreign extortion. In this, 
however, it is but just to say she was much ex- 
ceeded by some of her successors. 



36 INTRODUCTION. 

The first prima donna who made any decided 
impression after Catalani was Madame Bertinotti 
Radicatti, who made her debut in 1810, in the 
serious opera " Zaira." She was ably assisted by 
Signor Trammezzani, a talented singer, who per- 
formed in comic and serious characters with equal 
ability ; but Catalani still maintained her supremacy. 
In 1813, the latter was associated at the opera for 
the first time with Mrs. Dickons, (previously of 
considerable celebrity as Miss Poole,) who played 
the Countess in Mozart's comic opera, " Le Nozze 
di Figaro," to Catalani's Susannah, with admirable 
effect. They were both re-engaged the following 
season, which was distinguished also by the return 
of Grassini, who was most rapturously received. 
No very important new engagement was made 
after this in the Italian company till the arrival of 
Madame Fodor, who made her first appearance, in 
1816, in Paer's " Griseldi," wherein she produced 
great effect, particularly in the air"Griselda la- 
reggio." Naldi, an excellent baritone, who made 
his debut, as far back as 1806, in Guglielim's comic 
opera, "Le due Nozzo ed un Marito," was also 
greatly applauded in the same opera. Fodor acted 
with Braham, when the season was more advanced, 
with equal success, in " La Clemenzo di Tito," and 
was re-engaged the following season. This year is 
a remarkable one in the annals of the opera, as it 
boasts the introduction to the English public of 



INTRODUCTION. 37 

Madame Pasta, Madame Camporese, Signor Cre- 
velli, and Signor Ambrogetti. Of these, the three 
first commenced their career at the King's Theatre 
in Cimarosa's grand serious opera "Penelope," 
being its earliest performance in England. The 
expression of Pasta, her splended vocalization, and 
fine acting, were instantly recognised ; due justice 
was also done to the graceful singing of Camporese, 
and the taste exemplified in Crevelli's management 
of a tenor voice of considerable power and compass. 
But they were heard to most advantage in "Le 
Nozze di Figaro," in which Ambrogetti appeared 
as the Count; Fodor as the Countess; Camporese 
as Susanna; Pasta as the Page; and Naldi as 
Figaro. So brilliant a cast has rarely been met 
with; and with a result equally favourable they 
performed together, on the 12th of the following 
April, in another splendid opera of Mozart, "II Don 
Giovanni." 

Pasta's impersonations were considered as the 
finest things of the kind ever seen in England — 
those of a tragic character especially. Her Medea, 
her Desdemona, her Tancredi, and Romeo, were 
masterpieces of acting. Ambrogetti was also a 
distinguished actor. Who that has ever enjoyed it, 
can forget his thrilling performance in the serious 
opera " L'Agnese ?" It has been stated that before 
he attempted it, he visited Bedlam, and from the 
maniacs there confined, drew the extraordinary 

vol. i. 4 



38 INTRODUCTION. 

picture of a madman he represented on the stage. 
This celebrated production of Paer's we have only 
seen once performed since, and that was within the 
last five or six years, for the benefit of Tamburini, 
who played the principal character well, but not 
with the effect of his predecessor. Crevelli did not 
retain his place on the boards of the King's Thea- 
tre; he soon afterwards commenced as a teacher 
of singing in London, which he still remains. 

In the summer of 1818, Signor Garcia, the father 
of Malibran, made his debut on this stage, on the 
occasion of the first performance of Rossini's very 
popular " II Barbiere di Seviglia," in which he ac- 
quitted himself with great credit, both as a singer 
and as an actor. He had a tenor voice of excel- 
lent quality, which he displayed to particular advan- 
tage in the music of this charming opera. In the 
following year he repeated the character (Conte 
d'Almaviva) to the Figaro of Placci, the Rosina of 
Madame Georgia Bellochi, and the Don Bartolo of 
Ambrogetti, with increased popularity. It was the 
first season of Bellochi and Placci; the former pos- 
sessed a fine soprano, and the latter a baritone of a 
remarkable rich tone ; and the singing of both af- 
forded the utmost satisfaction. Madame Ronzi de 
Begnis, and Signor de Begnis, in 1821, succeeded 
them, and the delicacy of the lady's voice, and the 
buffo qualities of the gentleman, were much ap- 
proved of for a season or two. Signora Caradori 



INTRODUCTION. 39 

joined the company the following year, and her 
sweet voice and finished style found numerous ad- 
mirers. Her first character in England was that 
of the Page, in " Le Nozze di Figaro." Garcia 
was still engaged here in 1823, and particularly 
distinguished himself in the "Ricciardo e Zoraido;" 
the beautiful trio, as sung by him, Camporese, and 
Madame Vestris, who had already obtained con- 
siderable reputation as an operatic singer, elicited 
an unanimous encore. 

One of the great attractions of the following 
season was Madame Colbran Rossini, the w 7 ife 
of the celebrated composer, (who had just been 
engaged as director and composer of the thea- 
tre;) but, though possessed of considerable ad- 
vantages both in person and talent, she suffered 
by a comparison with Catalani and Pasta, who 
performed during the same period. In the summer 
of 1825, the lovers of music in England were 
advertised of the first introduction to them of a 
quality of voice which must have been strange to 
most of their ears, and some of the public journals 
went so far as to denounce the exhibition ; not- 
withstanding which, Signor Velluti was favourably 
heard at the King's Theatre in Meyerbeer's " II 
Crociato in Egitto," in the part of Armando, 
which had been written expressly for him, in which 
opera he was ably assisted by a young debutante, 
of extraordinary promise, in the character of Felicia. 



40 INTRODUCTION. 

This was Maria Felicia Garcia; the subject of 
these volumes. 

By this time musical taste in this country had 
made prodigious advances ; for, since the com- 
mencement of the present century, some of the 
finest compositions ever written- were produced at 
the King's Theatre, and executed by vocal and 
instrumental performers capable of doing them 
justice. Their popularity in England is an un- 
doubted proof of the progress of English taste. 
Of these operas, we have to notice the masterpieces 
of Mozart and Rossini, which speedily became 
established favourites, and seem to obtain increased 
admiration at every repetition. The richness of 
their instrumentation, the beauty of their vocal 
solos, and the no less delightful character of their 
harmonized pieces, combined to effect a degree of 
intellectual gratification, which, it may safely be 
asserted, no art but music could have produced* 
We cannot with such certainty compliment the 
subscribers to the Italian opera on their im- 
provement in musical taste since then. They 
appear too much enamoured of Donizetti, and 
other composers of the same unoriginal character 
— writers rather of solfeggi than music. In other 
respects, the performances at the King's Theatre, 
and the crowded audiences they attract, indicate a 
much more reputable judgment. Grisi has almost 
reconciled us to the loss of Malibran — Lablache 



INTRODUCTION. 41 

rivals the achievements of Farinelli, and Rubini 
has excelled all his predecessors. Instrumental 
players have arrived at a similar perfection ; the 
last century brought forth nothing like the per- 
formances of Paganini on the violin, Lindley on the 
violoncello, Bochsa on the harp, and Thalberg on 
the piano ; and vocal and orchestral music are cul- 
tivated to an extent and with a success in England 
never previously known. 



4* 



MEMOIRS OF 

MADAME MALIBRAN, 



BY 



THE COUNTESS DE MERLIN. 



MEMOIRS, &c. 



CHAPTER I 



Manuel Garcia, the father of Madame Malibran. His talent 
as an actor and singer. He quits Spain and proceeds to 
France and Italy. His performance at the Opera in Paris. 
Commencement of Maria Garcia's musical studies. Her 
voice and intonation. Garcia's severity in the instruction 
of his daughter. Maria's fear of her father's displeasure. 

Maria Garcia was born in Paris, in the year 
1808. Her father, Manuel Garcia, was a Spa- 
niard, and was for many years a popular actor and 
singer at the Prince's Theatre at Madrid. Con- 
scious, however, that his musical education was 
imperfect, and that he had within him the germ of 
something greater than had yet been shown, he left 
Spain, and visited Paris, where his daughter was 



46 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

born. From Paris he proceeded to Italy and after 
a few years' study he returned to the French 
capital, where his great talent was acknowledged 
by the most unqualified applause. His performances 
of Count Almaviva, of Otello, and Don Giovanni, 
will never be forgotten by those who witnessed 
them. 

Garcia devoted himself to his musical studies 
with the most energetic perseverance, and in a 
short time he commenced the musical education 
of his daughter. The violence and irritability of 
his temper, joined to the energy with which he 
himself surmounted the difficulties of musical 
study, rendered him any thing but an easy task- 
master. 

Maria Garcia's first years of practice were 
painful and tedious. Nothing short of that firmness 
of character, with which nature had so liberally 
endowed her, could have made her a musician. 
Her aptitude for musical study w r as but slowly 
developed, and her voice wanted flexibility ; yet, in 
spite of all these disadvantages, she resolutely per- 
severed, and she overcame each fresh difficulty 
with increasing courage. Some credit is doubtless 
due to her father: he never allowed the plea of 
"I cannot" to prevail. In his opinion the deter- 
mination to conquer difficulties was sufficient; he 
admitted of no excuse, no apology. To resolve 
was to do; to fail was want of perseverance. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 47 

Maria Garcia's voice was at first feeble. The 
lower tones were harsh and imperfectly developed, 
the upper tones were indifferent in quality, and 
limited in extent, and the middle tones wanted 
clearness. Her intonation was so false as to 
warrant the apprehension that her ear was defec- 
tive. I have often heard her say that at the 
commencement of her vocal practice she would 
sometimes sing so much out of tune that her father 
in despair would leave the piano and retire to 
another part of the house. Maria, then a mere 
child, would hurry after him, and with tears implore 
him to renew the lesson. " Did you hear how much 
you were out of tune?" Garcia would say. "O 
yes, papa." "Well, then, let us begin again." 
This serves to show that Garcia's severity was 
modified by the consideration of the possible ; and 
that he felt how insufficient is even the most reso- 
lute determination in the effort to overcome certain 
organic defects. 

One evening Maria and I were practising a duet 
into which Garcia had introduced some embellish- 
ments. Maria, who was then about fourteen vears 
of age, was vainly endeavouring to execute a cer- 
tain passage, and at last uttered the words " I 
cannot." In an instant the Andalusian blood of her 
father rose. He fixed his large eyes sternly upon 
her and said, " Did I hear aright V 9 In another 
instant she sang the passage perfectly. When we 



48 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

were alone, I expressed my surprise at this. " !" 
cried she, clasping her hands with emotion, " such 
is the effect of an angry look from my father, that 
I am sure it would make me jump from the roof of 
the house without hurting myself." 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 49 



CHAPTER II. 

Contrast between Madame Malibran's feeble health and strong 
mental power. Her ardent temperament. Her self-denial, 
generosity, and charity. The unreserved frankness of her 
disposition. Difference between Maria Garcia and her 
sister Pauline. Promising talents of Pauline. Madame 
Malibran's performance of Desdemona. Effect she produced 
in the celebrated romance. Her power of sustaining the 
tones of her voice amidst the strongest excitement of feel- 
ing. Cause to which she assigned the acquisition of that 
power. 

During her early years Maria Garcia showed 
symptoms of that delicacy of health which cha- 
racterized her after-life. Long ere she reached 
womanhood her spirit would struggle against her 
physical strength, rather than she would give up a 
difficulty, or allow it to be beyond her power to 
conquer. She would frequently swoon when over- 
come by the violent conflict which ever raged 
within her — the struggle between the mental energy 
and the delicate constitution with which nature 

vol. i. 5 



/ 



50 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

had endowed her. Whilst suffering to the utmost 
powers of endurance, and struggling against pain 
and debility, this inimitable songstress has often won 
her brightest laurels. 

Her impassioned and ardent feeling sometimes 
betrayed her into violent paroxysms of temper ; but 
even on those occasions it was easy to soothe her 
by an appeal to her kindness and generosity ; the 
voice of friendship, even in reproof, was hearkened 
to, and its counsels followed. She was ever ready 
to confess her error, to solicit pardon, and to atone 
for any injury she might have inflicted ; in short, 
she made friends of all who knew her. 

Madame Malibran has been accused of being 
avaricious and penurious. As far as concerned her 
own gratifications, she was so. Brought up in a 
rigid school, with the^ example of her parents before 
her, she never indulged in those expenses and luxu- 
ries common to females in the theatrical profession. 
Her life was one of self-denial. On herself she 
never threw away money ; but, on the other hand, 
who that ever sought and needed her assistance, had 
cause to accuse her of avarice? Who can say she 
was uncharitable ? Her whole income was at the 
disposal of others — her purse was ever open to the 
needy and deserving. 

The unreserved frankness of her nature imparted 
a certain degree of brusquerie to her manners, es- 
pecially in her professional intercourse. She was 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 51 

totally devoid of that sort of diplomatic disguise 
indispensable in certain dependent conditions. Her 
greatest fault was her inability to disguise her feel- 
ings. Though a first-rate actress on the stage, yet 
a child might read her thoughts when in her private 
and domestic character. 

There is a painful necessity in the life of an artist ; 
viz. that of surrendering his judgment to the opinions 
of others. In this respect, the most celebrated 
actor or actress that ever trod the stage is a slave. 
The success or failure of an actor or singer often 
depends upon the mere caprice of an audience, 
whose wayward humour makes or mars the fate of 
talent. The feelings of a debutante should therefore 
be well schooled, ere she appears before the public. 
One day I made this remark to Garcia, and added 
a slight reproach on his severe treatment of one so 
likely to have much to suffer. " I am aware," re- 
plied he, " that the world blames me ; but I am 
right. Maria can never become great but at this 
price : her proud and stubborn spirit requires a hand 
of iron to control it. Towards her younger sister, 
on the contrary, I have never had cause to exercise 
harshness, and yet she will make her way.* This 
is the difference : the one requires to be bound by a 

* Pauline though only seventeen years of age, promises to 
become an ornament to the stage, and a worthy successor to 
her talented and lamented sister. 



52 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

chain, the other may be led by a silken thread." 
Such was the opinion of Garcia, who, in accord- 
ance with these notions, made his daughter pay 
dearly in her youth for the triumphs of her maturer 
years. 

Every body knows how admirably Maria Mali- 
bran sang the romance in the third act of Otello. 
Who can forget her tears, and the melancholy ex- 
pression with which she addressed to Emilia the 
words, " Ricevi dei labri dell' arnica il baccio 
estremo ;" it was truly sublime. 

One evening I occupied the stage-box during this 
performance. My whole soul was with her ; I gazed 
on her with the deepest interest. I was entranced 
and overcome by the spell of the fascinating being 
before me. On our return home after the play, I 
asked her how she could sing so well under so 
strong an excitement of feeling — how she could 
manage her voice whilst her eyes were streaming 
with tears ? She naively answered, " It is not the 
result of study; I never practised this as an art. In 
my younger years, I have often found my eyes suf- 
fused with tears, whilst singing behind my father's 
chair, and I have been afraid he should perceive me 
weeping. I therefore exerted every endeavour to 
form my notes correctly, fearing he might chide me 
for my folly. I have often sang while tears flowed 
down my cheeks," Thus the severity of Garcia 
lent its aid to improve those extraordinary talents 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 53 

with which nature had endowed her. Her girlish 
sorrows gave her a power possessed by no other 
living singer: a power which has often wreathed 
her brows with crowns of triumph, and called forth 
the admiration and surprise of thousands. 



5* 



54 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER III. 

Madame Malibran's talent for drawing. Her caricatures. 
Needlework. Her power of conversing in various lan- 
guages. Incongruities in her disposition and manner. Her 
disregard of flattery. Her difficult musical exercises. Se- 
vere routine of study requisite for a public singer. 

Madame Malibran's facility in acquiring any ac- 
complishment to which she applied her talent was 
truly extraordinary. She conquered difficulties 
which others would fear to encounter. Although 
her father strictly confined her attention to singing, 
yet she, at the same time, and, as it were, without 
effort, cultivated other accomplishments. She was 
a first-rate pianiste ; and though she never had a 
master to instruct her in the art, yet she evinced 
exquisite talent for drawing— her caricatures were 
admirable. She never saw any fancy work, any 
sort of embroidery, or other needlework, that she 
could not instantly imitate, and often surpass. Her 
theatrical costumes were invariably the creation of 



OF MADAME MALIBRAtf. 55 

her own fancy, and in many instances were actually 
made by herself. I have frequently seen her engaged 
at needlework w T hilst she was practising her singing; 
her stitches being as delicate as her notes. She 
could write and speak four or five languages with 
perfect facility ; and I have heard her, in a mixed 
company, maintain a conversation with various in- 
dividuals, speaking to each in a different language. 

The disposition of Maria Malibran presented the 
strangest incongruities. She united in herself strength 
of mind and credulity, resolution and weakness. 
When elated to the highest pitch, the following in- 
stant would reduce her to the deepest despondency. 
She was generous to excess, mean in trifles; bold, 
yet timid, alternately sublime and childish. 

Maria appeared to have imbibed from the various 
classes in which she had mingled their various man- 
ners. She had received from the different countries 
she had visited during her years of travel, impres- 
sions from each, which, strangely blended in her 
mind, often made her seem capricious and incon- 
sistent. 

She had a way peculiar to herself, of creating 
friends. She spurned the ordinary road to the 
heart ; she despised flattery herself, and never ad- 
dressed it to others. It was not by insinuating man- 
ners that she won the good graces of those whose 
suffrage she sought. No ; it was by bold eccen- 
tricity and originality, by candour, sometimes verg- 
ing on unpoliteness. By the habit of freely expressing 



56 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

her feelings, she commanded and secured the love 
of all who knew her. 

In her childhood, her father often made her sing 
before his friends, canons and nocturnes of his own 
composition, being naturally anxious to give proof 
of her talents. But in later years he never permit- 
ted this : he strictly confined her practice to musical 
exercises — exercises the most dry, tedious, and la- 
borious that can be imagined. How few can form 
any idea of the toil to which the young singer must 
be subjected, ere she can attain any degree of per- 
fection in public performance ; how few would envy 
the crown of glory so painfully earned ! 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 57 



CHAPTER IV. 

Garcia's method of instruction. Grassini, Pizzaroni, Pasta, 
&c. Importance of the correct mode of exercising the 
voice. Garcia's remark on this subject. Defects of the old 
French school of singing. Method of practice for equal- 
izing the different parts of the voice. Requisite exercises 
for soprano voices. Extempore exercises practised by* 
Garcia's pupils. Importance attached by Garcia to the 
practice of Solfeggi. 

Garcia's method of teaching singing was formed 
on the excellent model of those old musicians, the 
traces of whose style are daily vanishing even in 
Italy. This system did not consist in directing the 
practice of the pupil to a variety of fioritiiri, which, 
like the fashions of the day, enjoy an evanescent 
favour, and are soon forgotten. Garcia's system of 
instruction was founded on principles whose superi- 
ority has been acknowledged in all ages of the mu- 
sical art ; those principles which have been studied 
by Grassini, Colbrand, Pizzaroni, Pasta, and other 
distinguished ornaments of the Italian scene. To 



58 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

these principles, seconded by high intelligence in 
their application, we are indebted to the most bril- 
liant talent that has shed lustre on the musical drama 
of the present day — the talent of Maria Malibran. 

The first objects to which the young singer 
should direct attention are — to equalize what may 
be termed the instrument of the voice, by correct- 
ing those imperfections from which even the finest 
organ is not exempt; — to augment the number of 
tones by constant and careful practice ;* — to draw 
breath quietly and without hurry ; — to prepare the 
throat for emitting the tone with clearness and 
purity, swelling the note gradually but boldly, so 
as to develope the utmost power of the voice, and 
finally to blend the notes in such a manner that 
each may be heard distinctly, but not abruptly. 
But, on the v other hand, it is requisite to guard 
against a false application of this principle, lest the 
student should fall into the defects of the old 
French method, by which one note was allowed 
to die away with a false expression of languid ten- 
derness, and to fall, as it were, en defaillance on 
the succeeding tone. To blend the tones of the 
voice according to the best Italian method, the note 
should first be emitted in a straight line, (to employ 

* Garcia used to say, " Those who wish to sing well should 
not practise without knowing how to practise. It is only by 
learning the secret of practising well that there is any possi- 
bility of learning to sing well." 






OF MADAME MALIBRAIV. §9 

a figurative expression,) and then form a curve, the 
intermediate tones being given merely by sympa- 
thetic vibration, and the voice should again fall on 
the required note with decision and clearness.* 

Whatever be the quality of the voice, the singer 
should take especial care of the upper notes, and 
avoid too much practise upon them, for that part 
of the voice being most delicate, its quality is most 
easily injured. On the contrary, by practising more 
particularly on the middle and lower notes, they 
acquire strength, and an important object is gained, 
(which is in strict accordance with one of the es- 
sential principles of acoustics,) namely, that of 
making the grave tones strike the ear with the 
same degree of force as the acute tones. 

To the adoption of this rational rule is to be 
ascribed the great superiority of the Italian to the 
French school of singing. By softening the upper 
tones, and giving strength to the lower and middle 
tones, either by dint of the accent of the voice, or 
the accent proper to the words, the ear is never 

* Tt is very difficult to give a perfectly clear and satisfactory 
explanation of the operations of a mechanism, the hidden mo- 
tion of which can only be guessed at from the vague observa- 
tions of singers themselves. All conclusions, therefore, re- 
specting the phenomena of the voice, must be drawn from 
very obscure sources. All persons, except singers, must re- 
gard these conclusions as mere metaphysical obscurities, and 
even to the majority of those who practise the art of singing, 
the management of the voice is rather the result of mechanical 
dexterity than of observation or reasoning. 



60 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

offended, and the music penetrates to the soul of 
the hearer without any of that harshness which 
shocks and irritates the nerves. In like manner the 
demitints in a beautiful picture, by blending the 
colours one with another, charm the eye by pro- 
ducing a vague appearance of reality. 

Exercises for strengthening the low and middle 
notes of the voice are more important for sopranos 
than for voices of any other class ; first, because, 
in general, that part of the voice is most feeble ; and 
next, because the transition from the voce di petto 
to the voce di testa tends to deteriorate the purity 
of some tones, and to impart a feebler, or, if I may 
so express myself, a stifled effect to others. It is, 
therefore, requisite to keep up a continual practice 
of the defective note with the pure note which fol- 
lows or precedes it, in order to obtain a perfect 
uniformity in their quality. This practice was one 
of the greatest difficulties which Maria Garcia had 
to surmount, the lower notes of her voice being 
strong and well toned, whilst the notes of transition 
were feeble and husky. 

One important point in this method is the secret 
of developing the voce di petto in soprano voices. 
Garcia was convinced that breast tones existed in 
all voices of that class, but that the only difficulty 
consisted in the art of developing them. 

In proportion as the voice of the pupil improved, 
it was Garcia's custom to prescribe exercises more 
and more difficult until every obstacle was sur- 



OF MADAME MAL1BRAN. 61 

mounted ; but he rarely noted down a set passage 
for his pupils. His method was to strike a chord 
on the piano, and to say to them, " Now sing any 
passage you please;" and he would make them 
execute a passage in this way ten or twenty times 
in succession. The result was, that the pupil sang 
precisely that which was suited to his voice, and 
suggested by his taste. Solfeggi exercises, per- 
formed in this way, presented a character of indi- 
viduality, being suggested by the feeling of the 
moment. Another advantage of this mode of 
practice was, that the pupil gained a perfect mas- 
tery over his voice by dint of exercising his own 
inspirations, and that he was at liberty to follow 
the dictates of his own taste without fear or hesita- 
tion. 

Garcia never permitted his pupils, whilst they 
were in the course of tuition, to sing vocal com- 
positions with words : he confined them strictly to 
Solfeggi. But when he considered any one of 
them sufficiently advanced he would say, " Now 
you are a singer; you may try any thing you 
please — like a child out of leading-strings, you 
can run alone." It may be added, that Garcia 
invariably applied his principles most rigorously to 
those pupils on whom he founded the highest hopes. 

vol* i. 6 



62 MEMOIRS AN'D LETTERS 



CHAPTER V. 

Maria Garcia's first appearance in public. Rossini's arrival 
In Paris. His Siege of Corinth and William Tell. Revo- 
lution in musical taste. Nuptial cantata. Amateur perform- 
ance. Bordogni and Isabel. Impressions produced by Maria 
Garcia's first public performance. 

Maria Garcia was only fifteen years of age when 
a circumstance occurred which led to her first 
appearance in public, and to the first developement 
of that talent which at a subsequent period of her 
life rendered her so celebrated. 

Rossini had just arrived in Paris. His arrival 
formed an epoch in the musical annals of the 
French capital. But though his principal compo- 
sitions were already well known and duly appre- 
ciated in France, yet, in that country the genius of 
song still slumbered. Rossini appeared, and com- 
posed his Siege of Corinth and Guillaume Tell. 
These operas produced a total change in the style 
of vocal execution among the French. 



OF MADAME MALIBRA1V. 63 

A short time before he quitted Italy, Rossini had 
composed a nuptial cantata in honour of the mar- 
riage of my relative, M. de Penalver. This can- 
tata, which consisted of four vocal parts, had never 
been heard in a complete form, not even with the 
piano-forte accompaniment. M. de Penalver, who 
happened to be in Paris at the time here alluded to, 
felt a desire to hear the piece with the full instru- 
mental accompaniments. He expressed this wish 
to Rossini, with whom I was not then acquainted, 
adding that he should like me to take a part in the 
performance. The Maestro, who had a prejudice 
against amateur performances, coolly replied, " No, 
no, my dear sir, that must not be : I have just ar- 
rived in Paris," added he with a smile, " and you 
w T ould have me commence with a fiasco. We will, 
if you please, get Isabel and Garcia to try the can- 
tata with the piano-forte accompaniment : that will 
afford you an idea of it." M. Penalver urged him 
to accede to his wish ; but all that he could obtain 
was Rossini's consent to hear me sing on the fol- 
lowing day. The trial was made, and Rossini 
declared his willingness to have the piece per- 
formed with the full accompaniments. The or- 
chestra was complete: wind instruments, drums, 
triangles — nothing was wanting ; and the company 
was so numerous, that I was obliged to have my 
drawing-room doors taken off the hinges. The 
parts for the tenor and bass voices were assigned 
to Bordogni and Pelligrini ; but we knew not where 



64 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

to find a contralto. In the midst of our embarrass- 
ment, Garcia, who had hitherto concealed the talent 
of his daughter, as a miser would hide a treasure, 
proposed that she should take the part. 

At that time Maria's voice had attained a con- 
siderable degree of perfection. ' Her voce di petto 
possessed all that power which subsequently excited 
such admiration, but the other parts of her voice 
were still harsh and husky; there was an obvious 
conflict of art against nature. In this, which may 
be termed her first public performance, Maria 
Garcia maintained a perfect self-possession. She 
manifested not the least trace of timidity. It seem- 
ed as though she felt a secret conviction of her 
future success, and that this presentiment, combined 
with a consciousness of the necessity of exertion, 
inspired her with that confidence indispensable to all 
whose talents are an object of public suffrage. To 
insure success in art, a just confidence in one's own 
resources is not less necessary than superior talent. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 65 



CHAPTER VI. 

Maria Garcia's debU at the King's Theatre in London. An 
anecdote. Velluti. The duet from Romeo e Giulietta. 
Velluti's Jiorituri. Extraordinary example of vocal talent 
on the part of Maria Garcia. Her improvised cadence. 
Velluti's jealousy. Garcia's departure for America. Ma- 
ria's performance at New York. M. Malibran solicits her 
hand. Garcia's violence of temper. Maria in fear of her 
life. Her exclamation of alarm. 

From Paris Garcia proceeded with his family to 
London, where his daughter made her debut at the 
King's Theatre. One of her early performances 
was marked by an amusing incident : it serves to 
show the laudable ambition which animated the 
young singer, and the courage with which she 
encountered difficulties at the very onset of her 
career. She had to sing with Velluti a duo in 
Zingarelli's Romeo e Giulietta. In the morning they 
rehearsed it together, and at that rehearsal, as at all 
preceding ones, Velluti, like an experienced stager, 
sang the plain notes of his part, reserving the fiori- 
turi for the evening, in the fear that the young 

6* 



66 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

debutante would imitate them. Accordingly, at 
the evening performance, Velluti sang his solo part, 
interspersing it with the most florid ornaments, and 
closing it with a new and brilliant cadence, which 
quite enchanted the audience. The musico cast a 
glance of mingled triumph and pity on poor Maria, 
as she advanced to the stage-lamps. What was the 
astonishment of the audience to hear her execute 
the ornaments of Velluti, imparting to them even 
additional grace, and crowning her triumph with a 
bold and superb improvisation. Amidst the torrents 
of applause which followed this effort, and whilst 
trembling from the excitement it occasioned, Maria 
felt her arm rudely grasped as it were by a hand of 
iron. Immediately the word " Briccona /" pro- 
nounced in a suppressed and angry tone by Velluti, 
afforded her a convincing proof that every triumph 
carries with it its mortification. 

1 do not believe there is any living singer capable 
of venturing on a tour de force similar to that per- 
formed by Maria Garcia on this occasion. She 
was, at the time of her first appearance at the King's 
Theatre, only sixteen years of age. 

Garcia next engaged himself and his family to per- 
form at New York, and in consequence they all left 
England for America. Maria took the principal 
parts in several of Rossini's operas, and excited 
great admiration. She was particularly successful 
in Desdemona and Cenerentola, though the parts are 
so different from each other. The principal indi- 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 67 

viduals of the American operatic company were 
Garcia, his daughter, his wife, and son ; the others 
were merely feeble auxiliaries. It was amusing to 
hear Maria describe the pains she took to make 
singers of performers who had no requisites for 
singing — not even voices. But, in spite of every 
obstacle, the performances were well got up. 

Shortly after Garcia's arrival in America, M. 
Malibran, a French merchant established at New 
York, solicited the hand of Maria. Garcia refused 
his consent ; but Maria, young as she was, began 
already to feel weary of her laborious public life 
and her filial dependence. She rejoiced at the 
idea of emancipating herself, and, in her girlish 
inexperience, little thought that, in breaking the 
parental chain,, she would bind herself in fetters 
heavier and more lasting. She did not reflect that 
the soul of the artist,, imbued with the fire of 
genius, can never relinquish the exercise of that 
art for which nature has fitted it, and that the 
hardest filial dependence is nevertheless the sweet- 
est of all dependences. As we wander onward in 
the journey of life, we all look back with affection 
and regard to the paternal home. 

Garcia's temper created great unhappiness in 
his family. Madame Garcia, mild and gentle as 
an angel of peace, vainly strove to soothe the 
violence of her husband ; but he became more and 
more violent and irritable. One evening Othello 
was. to be performed : Garcia, who had been 



68 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

much out of humour during the day, was to play 
the part of the Moor, and his daughter that of 
Desdemona. In the scene in which Othello seizes 
Desdemona for the purpose of stabbing her, Maria 
perceived that the dagger which her father held in 
his hand was a real instrument of death, and not 
one of those sham weapons used by actors. Maria 
immediately recognised the dagger which her 
father brandished furiously in his hand. It was 
one which Garcia had purchased from a Turk a 
few days previously, and, at the time he bought 
it, he had remarked the peculiar sharpness of 
the blade. Maria beheld the deadly weapon 
approach her bosom, and, frantic with terror, 
she uttered the words, " Papa ! Papa ! por Dios 
no me mates /*** Poor Maria's terror, as may 
readily be supposed, was unfounded. Garcia had 
no intention of murdering his daughter. The fact 
was, that the stage-dagger being mislaid, he merely 
made use of his own as a substitute for it. 

When Madame Malibran related to me this 
anecdote, I inquired what the audience thought of 
her strange exclamation. " Oh !" replied she, " no 
one seemed to be aware that any thing extra- 
ordinary had occurred. My terror appeared to be 
nothing more than what was incidental to my part ; 
and as to my speaking Spanish, no one had the least 
suspicion that it was not very good Italian." 

* " Papa ! papa ! for Heaven's sake do not kill me !" 



OF MADAME MALIBRAIY. 69 



CHAPTER VII. 

Maria Garcia's marriage, M. Malibran's bankruptcy. Gar- 
cia leaves the United States, and proceeds to Mexico. 
Noble exertions of Madame Malibran. She studies Eng- 
lish singing. Her success on the American stage. Her 
generous endeavours to relieve her husband. She leaves 
America and returns to Europe. Her arrival in Paris. 
Renews her acquaintance with the authoress of these Me- 
moirs. Favourable impression produced by her first visit. 
Anticipations of her success, The musical jury. The 
unbelievers converted. 

M. Malibran- made brilliant promises to Garcia's 
family. Maria strongly urged her father to con- 
sent to the marriage, and at length it was con- 
cluded. In a few weeks after this event M. Mali- 
bran became a bankrupt, before he had performed 
the promises he held out to his wife's family. This 
event exasperated to the utmost degree the violence 
of Garcia's temper. In the fear that he might be 
driven to some act of desperation, he was prevailed 
upon to leave the United States. He proceeded to 
Mexico with all his family except Maria. She, on 



70 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

awaking from the brilliant dreams in which she 
had been nursed since her marriage, found herself 
in a foreign land, separated from her parents, and 
united to a man who was unable to protect her, and 
who, being deprived of the means of existence, had 
no resource but in the talents of his wife. 

Maria Malibran was endued with that energy of 
character which rendered her capable of the noblest 
exertions. After the departure of Garcia and his 
family, the Italian company at New York w ? as 
broken up. Madame Malibran immediately com- 
menced the study of English vocal music, and made 
her appearance on the national stage. 

What indefatigable patience, what active intelli- 
gence, were required to surmount the numerous 
difficulties which presented themselves to her at 
every step ! What mental courage she must have 
summoned to subdue the perturbation of spirit and 
the embarrassment attendant on her fallen circum- 
stances! Regarding her husband's bankruptcy 
merely as his misfortune, she thought only of sooth- 
ing his distress. Her generous heart, which was 
always exalted to enthusiasm by the consciousness 
of doing good, enabled her to brave every obstacle. 
She succeeded beyond her hopes, and every evening 
a considerable sum of money was paid by the ma- 
nager of the theatre to M. Malibran for his wife, 
who, in order to render the fruit of her exertions 
effectual, had entered into an agreement that her 
salary should be paid nightly. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 71 

Notwithstanding her brilliant success in America, 
imperative reasons induced M. Malibran to send 
his wife to Europe, and it was agreed that she 
should there resume her exertions, and remit to him 
the emoluments derived from them. 

Madame Malibran had not yet completed her 
twentieth year when she arrived in Paris. This 
was in December, 1827. She went to reside with 
her husband's sister. 

Though a native of Paris, yet the seclusion which 
her studies imposed on her had prevented her from 
forming any acquaintances during her previous re- 
sidence in the French capital ; consequently on her 
return, after a few years' absence, she found her- 
self completely desolate. A recollection of the re- 
gard I had cherished for her in her girlhood induced 
her to come to me. 

This interesting young creature, a wanderer from 
a distant land, presented herself to me. Her dark 
silken hair hung in long ringlets on her neck, and 
she was simply attired in a dress of white muslin. 
Her youth, her beauty, her intelligence, her friend- 
less and destitute condition, all combined to excite 
my deepest interest. I gazed on her with mingled 
feelings of sympathy and admiration. She seated 
herself at the piano, and I was charmed with her 
performance. 

She expressed a wish to sing a duet with me, but 
she had not sung many bars, when suddenly stop- 
ping, and throwing her arms round my neck, she 



72 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

exclaimed, "O! how this reminds me of the time 
when we used to practise together in papa's school ! 
How perfectly we understand each other !" Then 
she resumed her singing, to w-hich I listened with 
wonder and admiration. In the evening I visited 
the Italian Opera, and, still under the influence of 
the enchantment I had experienced in the morning, 
I described in glowing terms the powers of the fair 
siren to several of my friends. " She is a perfect 
wonder," said I; "her appearance will form an 
epoch in the musical world." " But," replied the 
person to whom I addressed these words, " no one 
has heard of her. If she were really so clever as 
yon describe, surely her reputation must have tra- 
velled hither before her." I again expressed my 
high opinion of her talents, and the conviction that 
she would create a wonderful sensation. " I strongly 
suspect," said one of my friends, " that her Spanish 
origin tends not a little to enhance her merit in your 
eyes." " I confess that has some claim to my in- 
terest, but not so much as you imagine. I certainly 
feel proud to reflect that this beautiful and talented 
creature has Spanish blood in her veins ; but that is 
all. A little time will, I think, show the justice of 
my anticipations." 

A few days afterwards I assembled at my house 
a sort of musical jury — a party of unbelievers. 
They were, as I expected, struck with astonishment 
on seeing and hearing her. Maria Malibran was 
sublime as a dramatic singer, but her most tri- 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 73 

umphant efforts were those little extempore fioriturh 
with which she was wont to electrify her hearers 
in small private circles. On these occasions, when 
she gave free scope to her own inspirations, she 
seemed like the very genius of music. What a 
fund of original ideas, what exquisite taste, did 
Madame Malibran evince, when she imparted new 
life to a composition, by adorning it, as it were, 
with the brilliant and vivid hues of the rainbow. 

Before Madame Malibran had sung her first aria 
at my party, she had completely converted the little 
group of unbelievers into devout worshippers. 



VOL. i. 



74 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Madame Malibran's debU at the Italian Opera in Paris. Her 
apprehension of failure. Disadvantages she had to contend 
against. Her triumphant success. Offers 'of engagements. 
She concludes an engagement with the manager of the 
Theatre Italien. Her debtit in Desdemona. Versatility of 
her powers as a singer and actress. Remark of Crescentini. 
Madame Malibran withdraws herself from her husband's 
relations. She takes up her abode with Madame Naldi. 
Authority exercised by that lady. The Cashmere shawl. 

Madame Malibran made her first appearance at 
the Grand Opera of Paris, in January, 1828, in the 
part of Semiramide. The performance was for 
the benefit of Galli. For the first time in her life 
she felt timidity. She knew that on that night's 
performance her future reputation depended. The 
part she had selected was not precisely fitted to her. 
The music did not fall on the best notes of her 
voice; and she had another obstacle to contend 
against in the size of the theatre, which w r as larger 
than any in which she had heretofore sung. These 



OF MADAME MALIBRAtf. 75 

disadvantages were calculated to intimidate her; 
but nevertheless her natural courage enabled her to 
encounter them with spirit. 

The first notes of her powerful voice which 
thrilled on the ears of the audience were followed 
by rapturous plaudits ,* all who witnessed her per- 
formance pronounced her to be a prima donna of 
the highest talent. She now received liberal offers 
for engagements. She at first hesitated between 
the Theatre Italien and the Grand Opera ; but she 
decided in favour of the former, and her choice 
was judicious. At the French opera, singing was 
at that time merely a sort of declamation, which 
would not have afforded free scope for the exercise 
of Madame Malibran's peculiar talents. That style 
of singing, (in which the cantabile is nearly null,) 
requiring vast power of lungs, would, in a very 
few years, have exhausted the voice of Madame 
Malibran, who, in the conscientious performance 
of her professional duties, thought only of the pre- 
sent, and never considered the future. She con- 
eluded an engagement with the managers of the 
Theatre Italien, and made her debut in the part of 
Desdemona. 

She speedily attained the most brilliant popu- 
larity. The Parisians w r ere enthusiastic in their 
admiration and applause : and Madame Malibran, 
supported by the confidence which success inspires, 
frequently reached sublimity both in her singing and 
acting. 



76 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

The vast compass of Madame Malibran's voice, 
together with the versatility of her talent, enabled 
her to perform in all Rossini's operas ; and, in some 
instances, the two first parts in the same opera ; for 
example, in Semiramide, in which she could sus- 
tain, in equal perfection, the character of Arsace 
and that of the Queen of Babylon. Her persona- 
tion of Desdemona was a touching picture of sensi- 
bility and melancholy. Her Rosina was the per- 
fection of playful grace and arch gayety ; whilst 
she drew tears from the eyes of all who beheld her 
in Ninetta, in the Gazza Ladra. It is impossible to 
conceive a more perfect personification of resigned 
sorrow, partaking of fatalism. 

Crescentini, when asked his opinion of a singer 
whose talent had been greatly and unjustly extolled, 
replied, " Canta bene, ma non mi persuade" This 
observation could not have been applied to Madame 
Malibran. On hearing that fascinating singer, it was 
impossible not to identify oneself with her, because 
she identified herself with her part. Her impas- 
sioned soul, by some irresistible power of sympa- 
thy, communicated to others the sentiments which 
she so well experienced and expressed. Talent 
alone, whatever be its degree of superiority, is 
incapable of producing this magical effect : true 
feeling is the secret spell. That which emanates 
from the heart has alone the power to reach the 
hearts of others. 

Madame Malibran soon had reason to be dis- 



OP MADAME MALIERAtf. 77 

satisfied with the treatment she experienced from 
her husband's relatives. She complained of the 
irksome tutelage to which she was subjected, both 
in person and purse ; but the want of protection, 
and the fear of that censure which her extreme 
youth and her independent position might draw 
down upon her, induced her to prolong for some 
time her residence with her sis'er-in-law. How- 
ever, one day, in a moment of irritation, she sent 
for a coach, and, taking with her her trunks, she 
drove off, unknown to her relatives, and took up 
her abode with Madame Naldi. 

Availing herself of that freedom of mariners 
which the theatrical profession admits of, she 
might, with perfect propriety, have resided alone ; 
but she was young, and surrounded by admirers, 
and in the naive purity of her sentiments she felt 
the necessity of protection. She therefore sub- 
mitted voluntarily to the authority of Madame 
Nald^ an old friend of her family, and a woman 
of imperious and austere manners. It was truly 
touching to see her yield to the advice, and submit 
to the little sacrifices which her friend exacted from 
her. To Madame Naldi she readily resigned that 
self-will which, to all others, was so unbending; 
and when, by any little fits of ill-humour or irrita- 
bility, she thought she had offended her friend, she 
would load her with caresses, and ask her pardon 
with the humility of a child. All the letters which 
were addressed to Madame Malibran, as well as 

7* 



78 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

all which she herself wrote, were shown to Madame 
Naldi. That lady had the use of her money, and 
allowed her only as much as would provide her 
with the strictest necessaries. 

Shortly before her death, at the time when her 
fortune was so brilliant, Madame Malibran called 
the attention of a friend to an old Cashmere shawl 
which she wore; " I prefer wearing this old shawl," 
she said, " to any other that I have got. It was the 
first Cashmere shawl I ever possessed, and I expe- 
rience a certain degree of pleasure in calling to 
mind all the trouble it cost me to prevail on Madame 
Naldi to allow me to purchase it." 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 79 



CHAPTER IX. 

The performance of separate acts of different operas. First 
introduction of that custom. Madame Malibran's disap- 
proval of it. Effects of the custom on a musical audience. 
Due preparation of the ear for musical enjoyment. Ad- 
vantage of displacing the acts of an opera. Different 
impressions produced by musical compositions, according 
to the modifications of time and place. Contrary opinions 
sometimes pronounced on celebrated singers. Sensations 
produced by excessive delicacy of the musical ear. 

About the time of Madame Malibran's appear- 
ance in Paris, commenced the custom, now so 
prevalent, of performing separate acts of different 
operas. 

Our prima donna felt a certain degree of repug- 
nance in conforming with this incongruity, and she 
frequently told me that she experienced great diffi- 
culty in entering into the spirit of her part, when 
she had to commence at the second act. This may 
be readily conceived. 



80 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

Such a mode of varying the amusements of the 
public, or rather of helping operatic managers out 
of their embarrassments, is certainly at variance 
with common sense. Nothing short of the indiffer- 
ence with which the Italians regard the meaning of 
an opera libretto could have given rise to the intro- 
duction of so absurd a practice. 

But if this custom of dividing operas piecemeal 
be revolting to reason, it is not revolting to the ear 
of the amateur. The sense of hearing, like each 
of our other faculties, is endowed with a certain 
degree of power, which has its first developement, 
its perfection, and decay. 

However practised the ear may be in seizing the 
shades of harmony, it nevertheless requires a little 
preparation. The musical ear, on being roused 
from the apathy resulting from inaction, experi- 
ences a certain degree of confusion, which is dis- 
pelled only in proportion as the action of the organ 
is restored by exercise. When that action is fully 
restored, the enjoyment is complete ; because the 
sense being completely developed is in the plenitude 
of its power. The action of the organ at first 
communicates pleasure : after continued action 
weariness ensues ; and at length fatigue irritates, 
and renders it not only incapable of enjoying, but 
even of judging. 

Every one must have observed that the first 
morceaux of an opera are never duly appreciated, 
unless they have been previously heard as detached 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 81 

performances ; that the last pieces of an opera are 
rarely listened to, unless the drama be very short ; 
— and that, in general, the success of an opera is 
decided between the end of the first act and the 
commencement of the second. 

It is, therefore, evident, that in order to multiply 
the enjoyment we derive from music, it would be 
desirable to hear all the best portions of an opera at 
the moment when our faculties are in the plenitude 
of their power for receiving impressions ; that is to 
say, not at the moment when they wee first roused 
into action, or when wearied by exercise. Conse- 
quently, by displacing the acts of an opera, the dif- 
ferent parts are heard at the proper moment; that is 
to say, when the musical ear is in the plenitude of its 
power. 

I have oftener than once amused myself in de- 
ducing these ideas from my own impressions. Ex- 
perience has fully convinced me of the justice of 
my observations. 

This custom of performing separate acts of operas 
confers the charm of novelty on many old produc- 
tions. I have often listened to musical compositions 
which appeared to be invested with additional 
freshness and beauty, merely by the modifications 
produced on my feelings by time and place! How 
many confused and fugitive recollections — how 
many sensations of the mind may be conjured up 
by the electric strains of songs which we have 



82 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

once listened to carelessly, and perhaps uncon- 
sciously! 

The place we occupy in a theatre — the parti- 
cular tier in which our box may be situated — the 
manner in which the sound reaches the ear — all 
these circumstances have their influence on the sen- 
sations of persons who are keenly alive to the charms 
of music. 

On quitting the Opera House, how frequently do 
we hear the most contrary comment on the per- 
formance ! " Rubini did not sing well," says one ; 
whilst another voice exclaims, " Rubini was divine 
this evening." " Grisi was in excellent voice," 
remarks one. " I thought she screamed horribly," 
says another. This diversity of opinions might 
perhaps be traced to the place which each inter- 
locutor occupied in the theatre, and perhaps even 
to the degree of comfortable accommodation which 
his seat afforded. 

It is certain that the sensibility of the musical 
ear may become so irritable that a harsh voice, or 
a false intonation, will cause the most annoying 
effects, even to the excitement of spasmodic sensa- 
tions. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 83 









CHAPTER X. 

Mademoiselle Sontag's first appearance in Paris. Emulation 
of Madame Malibran. First duo sung by Madame Malibran 
and Mademoiselle Son tag. Enthusiasm excited by their 
joint performance. Greetings of friendship. Madame 
Malibran's simplicity of taste. Moderation in her personal 
expenses. Her liberality to her professional colleagues. 
Touching anecdote. Her talent for representing the bur- 
lesque characters of low comedy. Her taste for carica- 
ture. Private theatricals in her own house. Attack on 
Madame Malibran in Gaclignani's Messenger. Gallantry 
of the Baron de Fremont. Madame Malibran's letter to 
him. 

Madame Malibran's popularity daily increased. 
The appearance of Mademoiselle Sontag* at the 
Theatre Italien was a new stimulus which contri- 
buted, if possible, to improve her talents. 

Whenever Sontag obtained a brilliant triumph, 
Malibran would weep, and exclaim, " Why does 
she sing so divinely V 9 The tears excited by these 

* Now Countess Rossi. 



84 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

feelings of emulation were the harbingers of. re- 
newed exertion and increased improvement. 

An earnest desire was felt by many distinguished 
amateurs to hear these two charming singers toge- 
ther in one opera. But they were mutually fearful 
of each other, and for some time they cautiously 
avoided being brought together. 

One evening they met at a concert at my house. 
A litte plot was formed against them, and about the 
middle of the concert it was proposed that they 
should sing the duo from Tancredi. 

For some momen's they evidently betrayed fear 
and hesitation; but at length they consented, and 
they advanced to the piano amidst the plaudits of 
the company. 

They stood gazing at each other with a look of 
distrust and confusion ; but at length the closing 
chord of the introduction roused their attention, and 
the duo commenced. 

The applause was rapturous, and was equally 
divided between the charming singers. They them- 
selves seemed delighted at the effect they had pro- 
duced, and astonished to discover how groundless 
had been their mutual fear. They joined hands, 
and, inclining affectionately towards each other, 
they interchanged the kiss of friendship with all the 
ardour and sensibility of youth. 

This moving scene will remain indelibly im- 
pressed on the memories of all who witnessed it. 

Amidst the brilliant existence which she had 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 85 

now entered upon, Maria Malibran preserved all 
her natural childishness of manner and simplicity of 
taste. 

She was totally ignorant of every thing connected 
with domestic management and the expenditure of 
money. 

She had been so wholly devoted to her profes- 
sional studies and avocations, that she seemed to be, 
as it were, excluded from the circle of real life. 
She had no taste for luxury, and she never indulged 
in superfluous expenses ; but her bounty was ever 
unsparingly bestowed on those who needed it. If a 
case of distress amongst her operatic colleagues 
reached her ears, she would immediately send a 
sum of money for the relief of the suffering party. 
But her aid was not confined to pecuniary dona- 
tions. She would get up a concert for the benefit of 
the distressed person or family, use her influence to 
sell tickets, and break with the operatic manager, if 
he refused her permission to sing. In this manner 
her talents and her earnings were constantly devoted 
to purposes which reflect the highest honour on her 
generous nature. 

Towards the close of one of the seasons of the 
Parisian opera, a young female, one of the chorus- 
singers, formed an engagement at the Opera in 
London. According to the terms of her engage- 
ment, she was to commence her duty in London 
on a certain night ; but she found herself unable to 
quit Paris, for want of money to pay her travelling 

vol. i. 8 



86 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

expenses. As soon as these circumstances reached 
the ears of Madame Malibran, she immediately 
offered to sing at the concert which some persons 
were exerting themselves to get up for the benefit 
of the poor chorus-singer. 

It may readily be conceived that the announce- 
ment of Madame Malibran's name in the bills was 
a powerful attraction ; and accordingly the concert- 
room was crowded to excess. 

At the hour fixed for the commencement of the 
concert Madame Malibran had not arrived, and the 
fear of a disappointment began to create uneasi- 
ness. 

When the performances were nearly half over, 
Madame Malibran presented herself, and stepping 
up to the young chorus-singer, she said in a whis- 
per, " I am rather late, my dear, but the audience 
shall lose nothing, for I will sing all the pieces set 
down for me. But, as I promised you my services 
for the whole evening, I intend to keep my word. 
I have been singing at a concert given by the Duke 
of Orleans, and his Royal Highness has presented 
me with three hundred francs. There, take the 
money, it is yours !" 

Nothing gratified Madame Malibran more than 
to depart from her usual cast of character, the 
queens and heroines of the serious opera, and to 
take comic and even burlesque parts. Thus she 
voluntarily appeared in the second-rate character 
of Fidalma in the Matrimonio Segreto, and I once 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 87 

heard her say that she should like much to take the 
trivial character of the Duenna in the Barber of 
Seville, merely for the sake of wearing the comical 
dress. 

There being very few parts of this class which 
she could with any degree of propriety appear in 
on the operatic stage, she amused herself by acting 
burlesque characters in private theatricals in her 
own house. 

She possessed admirable talent for caricature. 
In this repect her humour was not inferior to that 
of Vernet or Madame Vautrin. 

All musical amateurs, in the very highest circle 
of Parisian society, were eager to obtain invita- 
tions to Madame Malibran's private theatricals, and 
every one was delighted with her performance of 
the burlesque characters of comedy. But amidst 
the admiration with which she was greeted, both 
in public and private, she had the mortification to 
learn that she had been bitterly assailed in an Eng- 
lish Journal, (Galignani's Messenger,) and that the 
attack had been copied into several French papers. 

From the fear of being too much influenced 
either by praise or blame, Madame Malibran made 
it a rule never to read the criticisms on her per- 
formances which appeared in the public journals. 
She would, therefore, have remained in ignorance 
of the attack in Galignani's Messenger, had not 
her attention been called to it by a peculiar cir- 
cumstance. 

Baron de Fremont, who was a great admirer of 



88 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

Madame Malibran's talent, happened to read the 
article above alluded to, and was highly indignant 
at its manifest injustice, though he had not been 
present at the representation to which it referred. 
It was natural to expect that some one who had 
witnessed the performance so ■ severely censured 
would step forward and refute, by his own know- 
ledge of facts, the assertions of Madame Malibran's 
assailant. But several days elapsed, and no cham- 
pion declared himself. Baron de Fremont called 
on Madame Malibran, showed her the article, and 
en vrai preux begged that she would permit him to 
take up her defence, by addressing a letter to the 
editor of Galignani's Messenger. Madame Mali- 
bran was deeply sensible of this act of kindness. 
It was the more serviceable to her, inasmuch as the 
attack was calculated to injure her in the opinion of 
the English public, before whom she was engaged 
to appear a few months subsequently.* 

The following is a letter which Madame Mali- 
bran addressed to Baron de Fremont, returning 
thanks for the service he had rendered her. 

Paris, «. 1829. 

" Sir, 

" I am deeply sensible of your kind exertions to 

serve me, and I feel unable to express the fulness of 

my gratitude. I have been so occupied in studying 

* The reader will find in the appendix the article which 
was inserted in Galignani's Messenger, and Baron de Fre- 
mont's answer to it. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 89 

the part of Tancredi, that I have not been able to 
snatch a moment to reply to your two kind letters, 
and to tell you that I had requested one of our good 
friends to do what you recommended. I believe 
that every thing is now done. It is true that I 
have expressed to Madame de Orfila my wish to be 
present at Madame Lebrun's masked ball; but I 
cannot take the liberty of soliciting an invitation for 
my brother, as I have not the honour of being ac- 
quainted with M. Lebrun. I therefore thank you 
for your good intentions, but I do not wish that 
this ball should afford another pretext for drawing 
down censure. 

" I beg you will accept every assurance of the 
grateful sentiments with which I remain, sir, 

" Your obliged 

" M. Malibran." 

I must needs confess that I always experienced a 
certain degree of dissatisfaction when I saw Maria 
Malibran assume the representation of grotesque 
characters. I could not endure to see her distort 
and disfigure that beautiful countenance, which was 
so well fitted to reflect the noblest sentiments of the 
soul. 

But this extraordinary woman, like all persons of 
superior genius, was actuated by an uncontrollable 
desire to exercise all the various talents with which 
she was so liberally gifted. She was not prompted 
by vanity, but by the force of her own genius. 

8* 



90 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XI. 

Madame Malibran's benefit. Wreaths and bouquets thrown 
on the stage. Madame Malibran's passion for flowers. 
Anecdote of her dying scene in Otello. Her visit to the 
Chateau de Brizay. The Countess de Sparre. Madame 
Malibran's rural rambles. Dangers to which she exposed 
herself. Assumes male attire and other disguises. Dr. 

D and the peasant girl. Hoax performed by Madame 

Malibran. Trait of delicate generosity. Inscription re- 
cording Madame Malibran's bounty. 

v 
^ Madame Malibran took her benefit on the 31st 

of March. The performance was Otello. Public 

enthusiasm was at its height. 

On this occasion wreaths and bouquets of flowers 
were for the first time thrown on the stage of the 
Italian Opera at Paris. 

Madame Malibran therefore received the first 
offerings of this delightful homage, so appropriate 
to female taste, and so well calculated to make an 
impression on the female heart. 

Maria Malibran's nervous temperament and ro- 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 91 

mantic turn of feeling inspired her with a passion- 
ate love of flowers. During her performance of 
Desdemona, on the evening of her benefit, above 
alluded to, she betrayed her fondness for flowers in 
a singular way. When Desdemona lay dead on 
the stage, and the Moor in his frenzied grief was 
preparing to inflict upon himself the blow which was 
to lay him prostrate at her side, Madame Malibran, 
fearing the destruction of the bouquets and wreaths 
which lay scattered round her, exclaimed in a low 
tone of voice, " Take care of my flowers ! Do not 
crush my flowers !" 

As a relaxation from the fatigues of her profes- 
sional exertions, she set off, at the end of June, to 
pass a few weeks at the Chateau de Brizay, the re- 
sidence of the Countess de Sparre.* That amiable 
lady, whose talents entitled her to hold the first rank 
among musicians, as her virtues befit her to occupy 
the highest station in society, cherished a cordial 
and sincere friendship for Maria Malibran. 

When in the country, our prima donna, forgetting 
the crown of Semiramide and the harp of Desde- 
mona, used sometimes to sally forth on her rural 
rambles disguised irx the garb of a young student. 
Dressed in a short blouse, a silk handkerchief tied 
negligently round her neck, and a light casquette on 
her head, she naturally found herself more safe and 
under less restraint than she could have been in 
female habiliments. 

* The daughter of Naldi, the celebrated buffo-singer. 



92 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

She would rise at six in the morning, and go out, 
sometimes taking a fowling-piece, to enjoy the 
sport of shooting. At other times she would go out 
on horseback, always selecting the most spirited 
horse she could find. After galloping over hill and 
dale, at the risk of breaking her neck, fording rivers, 
and exposing herself to every danger, she would re- 
turn and quell the apprehensions of her friends, who 
were often painfully alarmed for her safety. During 
the remainder of the day she would amuse herself 
with all sorts of childish games and exercises. 

Among the visiters at the Chateau de Brizay, was 

Dr. D , an old friend of the Countess de Sparre. 

The doctor was a remarkably kind-hearted and 
charitable man, and the gravity of his manners 
formed an amusing contrast to the gayety of Ma- 
dame Malibran. 

She one day took it into her head to disguise her- 
self as a peasant girl. Her costume was perfect ; 
the pointed cap with long barbes, the gold cross, the 
shoe-buckles, — nothing was wanting. 

She coloured her skin so as to give the semblance 
of a swarthy sunburnt complexion, and stuffed out 
her cheeks with cotton, to impart an appearance of 
plumpness to her face. Thus disguised, she one day 
presented herself to the doctor, and addressing him 
in the patois of the province, which she could mimic 
in perfection, told him a piteous tale of misfortune. 
Her mother was ill, and had broken her arm, &c. 
" I have heard, sir, that you are a very clever 



OF MADAME MALIBRAPf. 93 

doctor, and I hope you will give me something to 
cure my poor mother. I assure you we are in mise- 
rable poverty !" 

Dr. D. prescribed some remedies, gave her a 
little money, and Madame Malibran took her leave. 

In the evening, when the doctor related to the 
company the visit he had received, Madame Mali- 
bran affected to listen with great interest to his 
story, and expressed regret that she had not seen 
the peasant girl. 

The hoax was several times repeated, and at 
length the pretended peasant girl gave the old doctor 
to understand that she was deeply smitten with him. 
The doctor and the other visiters at the chateau 
were highly amused at this strange infatuation of 
the peasant girl. Madame Malibran constantly ex- 
pressed regret that she could not get sight of the 
fair inamorata, always accounting for her absence 
by a headache, or a visit to some poor family in the 
village. 

One day, the pretended peasant, emboldened by 
the success of her hoax, took the doctor's arm, and 
walked round the garden in conversation with him. 
The poor doctor did not attempt to withdraw his 
arm. He quietly resigned himself to his fate ; but 
turning to the persons who accompanied him, he 
said, " What a flattering conquest I have made !" 

No sooner had he uttered these words, than a 
smart soufflet convinced him of the propriety of 
being gallant even to a peasant girl 



94 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

11 And when did you ever make a better, you un- 
grateful man ?" exclaimed Madame Malibran in her 
natural tone of voice, which she had hitherto dis- 
guised by means of the stuffing she had put into her 
mouth. 

Poor Dr. D. stood bewildered with astonishment, 
whilst all present joined in a roar of laughter, at the 
same time complimenting Madame Malibran on the 
perfection of her disguise. 

But these playful sallies did not divert Madame 
Malibran's thoughts from the exercise of that gene- 
rosity which was inherent in her nature. Some days 
after the scene above described, she observed that 
Dr. D. appeared low-spirited and abstracted. She 
questioned him on the subject of his unusual dulness, 
but could gain no satisfactory answer. She soon, 
however, learned that a sister of the doctor, who 
had suffered several sad reverses of fortune, now 
found herself completely ruined by a fire, which had 
destroyed her house, and with it all the property she 
possessed. 

This disaster not only obliged Dr. D. to transmit 
pecuniary aid to his sister, but also to make a 
journey into the south of France to assist her by his 
advice. As his own fortune was very limited, he 
found it no easy task to accomplish these duties. 

Madame Malibran immediately despatched letters, 
directing that the house should be rebuilt at her ex- 
pense. 

This act of generous bounty was executed with 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 95 

such promptitude and secrecy, that, just at the 
moment when Dr. D. was about to start on his 
journey to the south, he received a letter from the 
mayor of the village in which his sister resided. 
This letter acknowledged the receipt of the sum 
sent by him, assuring him that it should be applied 
according to his directions, &c. The fact was, that 
Madame Malibran had sent the requisite instructions 
to the mayor for rebuilding the house; and she had 
so fully anticipated every want of the suffering 
family, as to render Dr. D/s journey unnecessary. 

During the life of Madame Malibran, neither Dr. 
D. nor his sister knew who was their benefactor ; 
but, after her decease, some memoranda found 
among her papers disclosed the secret. A stone is 
now fixed on the front of the house, bearing the 
following inscription : 

REBATIE 

PAR LES POINS BIENFAISANTS 

DE MADAME MALIBRAN. 

This act of generosity is the more worthy of ad- 
miration, inasmuch as, at the time of its perform- 
ance, Madame Malibran had scarcely commenced 
her theatrical career, and a great portion of the 
emoluments arising from her exertions was de- 
spatched to her husband in America. 



96 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XII. 

Madame Malibran returns to Paris. Terms of her engage- 
ment at the Theatre Italien. The operatic company. Ma- 
dame Malibran's appearance in Matilda di Sabrano, the 
Gazza Ladra, and the Cenerentola. The prison duet in 
the Gazza Ladra. Halevy's opera of Clary. Madame 
Malibran's impressive performance of the character of the 
heroine. She sets off for London, accompanied by Madame 
Naldi. Her engagement at the King's Theatre. Her 
terms for singing at private parties. Charitable act. Ma- 
dame Malibran engaged to sing at Bath and Bristol. She 
proceeds to Brussels. 

After a visit of three months at the Chateau 
de Brizay, Madame Malibran returned to Paris, 
where the operatic season was about to commence. 

She concluded an engagement with M. Laurent, 
the manager of the Theatre Italien, on the same 
terms as those of the preceding year? viz. eight 
hundred francs for each night of performance, and 
a free benefit. 

The principal members of the operatic company 
were — Madame Malibran, Mademoiselle Sontag, 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 97 

Donzelli, Zuccheli, and Graziani. Madame Mali- 
bran appeared in Otello, and was greeted with all 
the enthusiasm which her performances of the pre- 
ceding season had elicited. 

On the 13th of October she appeared in the new 
character of Matilda di Sabrano. She sang and 
acted with her usual excellence ; but the music of 
the part being better adapted to the high and flexi- 
ble tones of a soprano voice, was therefore better 
suited to the powers of Mademoiselle Sontag, to 
whom Madame Malibran shortly after surrendered 
the part. 

In the Cenerentola, and the Gazza Ladra, Ma- 
dame Malibran appeared with prodigious success. 
She was charming in the homely costume of Cene- 
rentola, and she acted the part with the most cap- 
tivating simplicity and naivete. 

The victim-like resignation which she maintained 
in the presence of her father, suddenly changed 
when she was left alone with her sisters. She then 
assumed a haughty and pouting manner, which im- 
parted an air of novelty to the character. 

The splendid finale, "Non piu mesta," was ad- 
mirably adapted to Malibran's powers, as was like- 
wise the cantabile in the finale to the first act. 
The vast extent of notes embraced in these two 
compositions enabled Madame Malibran to display 
the full resources of her voice and style, and she 
astonished all who heard her by the original and 
happy flights of her fancy. 

vol. 1. 9 



98 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

Madame Malibran was the first singer who re- 
vealed the beauty of the prison duo in the opera of 
the Gazza Ladra. Previously to her performance 
of Ninetta, that composition had been listened to 
with indifference, and indeed it had been often en- 
tirely omitted, as though it were a production of 
inferior merit. 

How unfortunate it would be for musical com- 
posers, if they did not sometimes find singers 
capable of understanding and imparting a due 
expression to their conceptions ! 

The duo above mentioned, which had been ne- 
glected because it was not understood, obtained the 
greatest popularity after it had been sung by Ma- 
dame Malibran. She gave the andante with an ex- 
pression of prophetic and touching melancholy, and 
then dashed boldly into the allegro, defying, as it 
were, the power of fate. Her rapid transitions 
from the lower to the upper tones of her voice ex- 
cited at once wonder and delight. 

The whole history of poor Ninetta appeared to 
be summed up in this duo, when sung with the 
powerful expression which Madame Malibran im- 
parted to it. The life of girlish innocence and joy 
chequered by gloomy forebodings, the torments of 
unjust persecution, the fury of despair, the resigna- 
tion of innocence — all were admirably and vividly 
portrayed. 

I never witnessed the performance of the drama 
here alluded to — not even in the operatic form, in 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 99 

which the music tends to soften down its vivid 
colouring — without being forcibly impressed with 
the natural truth of the subject, and the example it 
affords of human injustice. 

On the 9th of December Madame Malibran ap- 
peared in the opera of Clary, which M. Halevy 
composed expressly for her. The performance was 
crowned with brilliant success. The opera con- 
tained a great deal of beautiful music. 

Nothing could be finer than Madame Malibran's 
acting in the scene in which Clary first appears, 
magnificently dressed, and surrounded by all the 
allurements which love and wealth can bestow. 
When she expressed her remorse and regret, and 
when memory reverted to the days of her childhood 
and her father's cottage, tears of penitence seemed 
to roll down her cheeks. 

In this scene the thrilling tones of Malibran's 
voice vibrated through the hearts of her auditors. 
The impressive effect of her performance will never 
be erased from the memory of those who wit- 
nessed it. 

Then, again, how admirably she acted the scene 
in which she discovered her lover's treacherv, when 
he frankly avows that he never had the intention of 
making her his wife ! What noble pride was ex- 
pressed in her accents ! how truly dignified she 
seemed, even in the depths of her wretchedness ! 

Maria Malibran affords one of the few examples 
of the capability of producing ineffaceable impres- 



100 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

sions in an art whose effects are in their very na- 
ture fugitive. She was one of the gifted few whom 
nature endows with the union of those rare quali- 
ties which serve to reveal all the power of the his- 
trionic art. 

All who have seen Madame Malibran in the 
character of Clary must have been struck with her 
exquisite acting in the scene in which, having re- 
sumed the humble garb of a village girl, she pre- 
pares to depart, renouncing her fatal illusions and 
vain hopes. She opens the window to effect her 
escape : a ray of moonlight fails full on the portrait 
of her lover, and she pauses to gaze on it. It would 
be vain to attempt to describe the admirable expres- 
sion of her countenance and attitude, or the thrilling 
accents of her voice, while she took a last farewell 
of the picture. 

It is to be regretted that the opera of Clary has 
not been more frequently performed ; though, after 
Malibran, it would have been difficult for any other 
to undertake the part. The opera was highly 
creditable to the talent of its composer. 

On the 2nd of April, 1829, after the close of the 
Theatre Italien, Madame Malibran left Paris for 
London, accompanied by Madame Naldi. She was 
engaged by Laporte to sing at the King's Theatre, 
the terms of her engagement being seventy-five 
guineas per night, and a benefit. In London she 
was greeted with the echo of the applause she had 
so deservedly earned in Paris. She performed in 






OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 101 

Otello, Semiramide, the Gazza Ladra, the Capuleti, 
and the Cenerentola. 

But the happiness of thus finding herself the 
object of public admiration was not without its anti- 
dote. She experienced some little annoyances in 
her intercourse with private society. It was thought, 
I know not why, that her demand of twenty-five 
guineas for singing at a private party was exorbi- 
tant. That sum had, however, been readily granted 
to Pasta; and as Madame Malibran considered 
that it would be doing herself injustice to lower her 
demand, a little unpleasantness of feeling ensued, 
and she sang but seldom in private circles. 

This sort of exile annoyed her, not for any con- 
siderations of pecuniary interest, but because she 
attached great importance to the advantage of 
mingling in the higher circles of society. Never- 
theless, she was received with the most gratifying 
cordiality in the houses of several members of the 
English aristocracy; and in London, as in Paris, 
she formed many real friends in the most exalted 
rank of life. 

On the eve of Madame Malibran's departure from 
London, she performed an act of charity which well 
deserves to be recorded. On her return home from 
the opera, her ears still ringing with the plaudits 
which her performance had elicited, she beheld, on 
alighting from her carriage, a poor woman, with 
two little children, sitting on the steps of the door, 
and imploring charity. 

9* 



102 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

The night was cold and rainy. Madame Mali- 
bran instantly ordered that the poor woman and 
her children should be admitted to the house., and 
that they should be warmed and fed. She col- 
lected some articles of clothing for the children, 
and putting five guineas into the hand of the mo- 
ther, she said, " Take this, my good woman, and 
pray for me." 

Madame Malibran was engaged to sing in eight 
concerts at Bath and Bristol, for the sum of seventy 
guineas each performance. These concerts were 
not, however, to commence until the end of Sep- 
tember, or the beginning of October ; and Madame 
Malibran accordingly availed herself of the respite 
thus afforded her to pay a visit to Brussels, where 
she was impatiently expected. In that city she 
sang at several concerts, and was received with in- 
creased favour. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 103 



CHAPTER XIII. 

M. de Beriot. His disappointed love. Interest felt for him 
by Madame Malibran. She becomes attached to him. Re- 
monstrances of Madame Naldi. Madame Malibran hires a 
house in Paris. Extraordinary combination of talent at the 
Italian Opera in Paris. Madame Pizzaroni. Her unfortu- 
nate personal appearance. Her mariner of singing. Gri- 
maces. Style of Madame Pasta. Joint performance of 
Mesdames Sontag and Malibran. De Beriot returns to 
Paris. Madame Malibran's reception of him. Her fear of 
public opinion. Sources of annoyance and mortification. 
Malibran's eccentric and capricious feeling. 

Heretofore Madame Malibran's whole soul had 
been absorbed by the love of her art, and to excel 
in it appeared to be the sole object of her thoughts 
and wishes. Her character was pure, and her con- 
duct had been marked by the most scrupulous pro- 
priety. But, at the period to which I am now about 
to advert, her heart became susceptible to that pas* 
sion which, in a nature like hers, could not fail to 
determine the fate of her after life. 



104 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

The object of her attachment was a young artist, 
whose talents, even then, entitled him to rank among 
the first musicians of the day. Maria Malibran's 
choice was therefore perfectly congenial with her 
position as well as with her taste ; and, amidst the 
seductions to which she was exposed, that choice 
proves the pure and elevated feelings by which her 
inclinations were guided. 

One day a friend was rallying her on the ardent 
passion with which she had inspired one of her 
admirers. " Why, I confess," she replied, with an 
air of simple earnestness, " that I do believe he loves 
me, but what of that ? I do not love him. I do not 
wish to set myself up as a heroine of virtue. I 
know the dangers to which I am exposed. I am 
young, untrammelled by pecuniary dependence, mar- 
ried to a man old enough to be my grandfather ; 
my husband two thousand leagues apart from me, 
and I exposed to every temptation — the probability 
is, that I shall fall in love some day or another. 
But rest assured that whenever I do, I will not play 
the coquette. When I meet with the man capable 
of winning my heart, I will honestly tell him that I 
love him, and my affection will never change." 

She kept her word. 

M. de Beriot, the distinguished violinist, had left 
Belgium, his native country, to pass the winter in 
Paris. During that season Madame Malibran and 
De Beriot met several times at concerts and musical 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 105 

parties, and their united talents were the theme of 
admiration. 

Madame Malibran, though she knew but little of 
the young violinist, felt a deep interest for him. 
This interest was excited not merely by his talent, 
which she admired with all the enthusiasm natural 
to her ardent feeling; but she knew that he was 
unfortunate, and that was a powerful claim on her 
sympathy. 

De Beriot had conceived an attachment for Ma- 
demoiselle S , but his passion was not returned, 

the lady's affections being engaged to the individual 
who afterwards became her husband. 

Pity is nearly allied to love in the heart of a 
woman of ardent and romantic feeling ; and whilst 
Madame Malibran pitied De Beriot, she loved him 
without being conscious of it. They separated at 
the close of the spring, but they met again at 
Brussels. 

One evening they were at the Chateau de Chimay, 
De Beriot played a concerto which enchanted all 
who heard him. At its conclusion Madame Mali- 
bran stepped up to him, and taking his hand in hers, 
in a faltering voice expressed her admiration of his 
performance. Her eyes were overflowing with 
tears, and she was agitated by the most powerful 
emotions. Whilst endeavouring to disguise her 
embarrassment, by giving utterance to a string of 
compliments and congratulations, some words es- 



106 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

caped her which sufficiently denoted her real senti- 
ments. 

From that moment the hearts of these two young 
artists were linked together in the purest mutual 
affection. 

Madame Malibran returned to England to fulfil 
her professional engagements. 

She soon began to feel annoyed by the restraint 
imposed on her by Madame Naldi, and she no 
longer made that lady the confidante of her corre- 
spondence. 

Madame Naldi suspected Madame Malibran's 
attachment for De Beriot, and she decidedly dis- 
approved it. Maria listened to her remonstrance 
and advice with apparent deference, but she was 
in reality deeply mortified, and from that moment 
she resolved to take the first opportunity of eman- 
cipating herself from a restraint to which but a 
short time previously she voluntarily subjected her- 
self. 

Madame Malibran landed at Calais on the 26th 
of October, and reached Paris on the 28th. She 
took up her residence in a small house, which, 
through the medium of a friend, she had engaged 
in the Rue de Provence. Although her circum- 
stances and position were unchanged, yet she 
seemed at this time to attach particular importance 
to the fact of residing in a house of her own. It is 
possible that vague thoughts, which perhaps she 



OF MADAME MALIBRA1V. 107 

dared not avow even to herself, rendered her sen- 
sible to the value of entire independence. 

The season of the Italian Opera commenced in 
Paris with more than usual brilliancy. To the 
united talents of Mesdames Malibran and Sontag 
were added those of Madame Pizzaroni. It is im- 
possible to conceive the effect produced by the com- 
bined performances of these three extraordinary 
singers. 

The success of Madame Pizzaroni, in spite of the 
unfavourable impression produced by her personal 
appearance, reflects equal honour on her talents 
and the good sense of the public. The merit of 
her singing gained the suffrage even of those who 
had at first been prejudiced by her total deficiency 
of beauty. Her singing may be ranked among the 
greatest triumphs of the vocal air. 

Her contralto voice, though possessing great com- 
pass, was very unequal in its quality. In singing 
upon some of her middle notes, she was unfortu- 
nately obliged to twist her mouth in such a manner 
that the tone thus produced had a very peculiar and 
strange effect. 

Notwithstanding the general purity and beauty of 
Pizzaroni's style, some connoisseurs are of opinion 
that the peculiar twist of the mouth above mentioned 
was merely the result of an unfortunate habit. But 
I doubt this. It always appeared to me that the dis- 
tortion was an unavoidable necessity, and that the 



108 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

notes in question could not have been sung with- 
out it. 

The best singers have two different methods of 
forming their tones : first, by a strict adherence to 
the rules of art ; and secondly, by modifying those 
rules according to the peculiar nature of the voice. 
Art will enable a singer to turn even natural imper- 
fections to advantage;* and there are defects of 
voice which can be modified only by deviating from 
the rules of art. There are many examples of great 
singers who, after strictly adhering for a series of 
years to the principles of art, contract a faulty and 
at length a bad style ; because, their voices having 
changed, they are obliged to sing as they can, and 
not as they would. 

Maria Malibran made her re-appearance at the 
Theatre Italien in her favourite character of Desde- 
mona. Otello was speedily followed by Tancredi, 
and by Zingarelli's Romeo and Giulietta. 

In the two last mentioned operas Madame Mali- 

* That depth of expression which is one of the principal 
charms of Madame Pasta's singing, is in a great degree due 
to the irregularity of the tones of her voice. Her lower tones, 
which are somewhat harsh and husky, are admirably fitted for 
the expression of vehement passion, and are the more effective 
owing to the beautiful and unexpected contrast presented by 
the sweetness of the upper tones. We are frequently im- 
pressed with a profound sensation of melancholy by the sort of 
guttural tone produced by some singers in the sudden transi- 
tion from the voce di petto to the voce di testa. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAX. 109 

bran was powerfully seconded by the talents of the 
charming Mademoiselle Sontag, who performed the 
character of Amenaide in Tancredi, and that of 
Giulietta in Zingarelli's opera. 

Madame Malibran had now become the idol of 
all frequenters of the opera. With her admirable 
singing she combined the talent of a great tragedian. 
Her acting was never studied — it was the result of 
her own inspirations ; and if the ardour of those 
inspirations occasionally carried her beyond the 
limits of the circle prescribed by conventional cus- 
tom, it cannot be denied that she often reached the 
sublime. 

She never took lessons either in action or decla- 
mation. She was the pupil of nature ; and being 
endowed with an exquisite perception of the natural 
and the beautiful, she could, without the aid of art, 
produce the most powerful effects. Her acting 
always came home to the hearts of her auditors. 

Professional advantage, seconded by the dictates 
of a more powerful interest, induced De Beriot to 
revisit Paris. Madame Malibran was overjoyed to 
see him. She received him with tenderness mixed 
with reserve, for she stood in great fear of public 
opinion. She already felt grievously annoyed by the 
conviction, that if she was received in society, it 
was only on account of her talent. 

Being naturally proud, and feeling a proper con- 
sciousness of her own merit, she was painfully mor- 
tified to observe that, in reference to herself, a line 

vol. i. 10 



110 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

of demarcation was drawn between rank and talent 
— between the equality imposed by friendship, and 
the mere interest accorded by patronage. How 
often would a cold look or a haughty gesture inflict 
a deep wound on her sensitive heart, and rouse her 
from her dream of triumph ! 

Her life was made up of a series of contrasts. 
On the one hand she beheld a throng of admirers, 
who, enchanted by her powerful talent, offered to 
her the incense of adoration. But that brow which 
could so nobly bear a crown, shrank blushingly be- 
neath the cold aristocratic salute. On returning 
home from a party, she has been known to burst 
into tears, exclaiming, " I am merely the opera 
singer — nothing more — the slave whom they pay to 
minister to their pleasure !" 

From this it might naturally be presumed that 
Malibran would have felt gratified when a lady of 
high rank invited her to a party, and from motives 
of delicacy cautiously refrained from requesting her 
to sing. But no such thing ! Such was her strange 
eccentricity of character, that though overwhelmed 
w r ith attentions, she returned home ill-humoured and 
dissatisfied, and satirically expressed her acknow- 
ledgments for the generous and disinterested polite- 
ness of which she had been the object. It was easy 
to perceive that, of all mortifications, that which she 
most dreaded was to be deprived of her crown of 
professional glory. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. HI 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Proposed trip to St. Petersburg!] — Madame Malibran's disap- 
proval of the scheme. Coldness between her and De Beriot. 
Elegant present sent by De Beriot to Madame Malibran. 
She learns to play the harp. Her extraordinary power of 
memory. Facility of learning her parts. Her capability of 
singing at sight. Chevalier Neukomm's mass. The lan- 
guage of signs. The deaf and dumb youth. Madame 
Malibran's conversation with him. Her riding and dancing. 
Singers usually indifferent dancers. 

De Beriot returned to Paris, attracted partly by 
professional motives, but still more by the presence 
of her whose affections he possessed. Malibran, 
however, who was fully conscious of the value of a 
reputation in a public character, carefully concealed 
their liaison. One day De Beriot informed her that 
he had made a most brilliant engagement to perform 
in Russia, and begged of her to accompany him, re- 
presenting the advantage that would accrue from the 
union of their talents. But Madame Malibran's 
delicacy took the alarm. She rejected the proposi- 
tion, pointing out how much her reputation would 



112 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

be compromised by such a step, and she reproached 
De Beriot for not having been himself the first to 
take that point into consideration. Some high words 
ensued between them, and for several days they met 
as strangers. 

This state of things, however j did not last long; 
an explanation took place, and they became better 
friends than ever. Madame Malibran expressed a 
desire to learn the harp, and on the following morn- 
ing De Beriot sent her a splendid one. 

Touched by this mark of his attention, she studied 
the instrument, and in a very short time was ena- 
bled to accompany herself in Desdemona's romance. 
She was afterwards induced to give it up, mainly 
through fear that it might injure her voice, 

Madame Malibran had a most extraordinary 
power of memory. I have known her study an 
oper$ in the morning, and play in it the same eve- 
ning. She had only to try over the music once, 
and she knew it perfectly. 

One day when we were visiting the Chevalier 
Neukomm a Maria took up a mass of his composition 
which was lying on the table. She sang it through- 
out, and accompanied herself without making a 
single mistake, although it was in manuscript and 
exceedingly difficult. 

I saw her in the space of half an hour learn the 
language of signs — that is to say, the mode by 
which deaf and dumb persons communicate. 

One day a friend called upon her, accompanied 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 113 

by a deaf and dumb youth. Madame Malibran 
was not aware of his infirmity, but the melancholy 
expression of his countenance excited her interest. 
Her friend acquainted her with the cause. She had 
never before seen a deaf and dumb person, and she 
had no idea of the language of signs. 

She was deeply moved by the condition of the 
poor lad, and with tears in her eyes she drew her 
chair near to him. She endeavoured to express 
herself to him by signs. He answered her in the 
same manner. She observed and endeavoured to 
imitate him, and succeeded so well that at the ex- 
piration of half an hour she understood all the rules 
of the language, and could carry on a fluent con- 
versation in it. 

Madame Malibran was fond of all active exer- 
cises. She was an excellent horsewoman, but an 
indifferent dancer. Singers in general evince but 
little talent for dancing, and, what is still more sin- 
gular, they frequently keep very bad time. Another 
curious fact is, that musicians are rarely sensible to 
the charms of poetry. 

How are these anomalies to be accounted for ? 
The idea that naturally suggests itself is, that the 
vast developement of one sense absorbs the power 
of the rest. But if it be true that dancing and 
music, as well as music and poetry, are like plants 
of one family, and may flourish on the same stem, 
it is not very easy to account for the extraordinary 
phenomenon. 

10* 



114 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XV. 

M. Malibran arrives from America. His base deception pre- 
vious to his marriage. He agrees to live apart from his 
wife. Madame Malibran's wish to obtain a divorce. She 
writes to General Lafayette. The General's last love. 
Madame Malibran's taste for charades and riddles. M. 
Viardot. An anecdote. Madame Malibran's musical com- 
positions. 

Meanwhile M. Malibran came unexpectedly 
from America. His wife, who had hitherto aided 
him by her exertions, heard of his arrival with dis- 
may. It was quite impossible she could respect 
him ; the manner in which all his promises, both to 
herself and her father, had been broken, banished 
any esteem she might perhaps have felt for him. 

He had agreed to give 100,000 francs (£4,000) 
to Garcia, as a compensation for the loss of his 
daughter's services ; he had pledged himself in- 
stantly to withdraw his wife from a fatiguing and 
irksome profession, and to secure to her a respect- 
able independence for life. Neither of these pro- 
mises was fulfilled, nor could he have ever intended 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 115 

to fulfil them, for when he made them, he must have 
been conscious he was on the eve of immediate 
bankruptcy. 

The breach of the first pledge caused Maria's 
friends to abandon her. The violation of the 
second promise compelled her not only to return to 
her profession for her own maintenance, but also for 
that of her husband, who, foreseeing the coming 
storm, had by a base deception secured himself 
against want. 

This man's arrival in Europe was the first serious 
shock Maria Mahbran suffered; she saw at a glance 
the horror of her early marriage. M. Malibran 
had now come to assert his rights, and to share the 
fruit of his wife's exertions. The form which ap- 
peared as a shadow on the other side of the Atlan- 
tic became substance, and the pensioner suddenly 
announced his arrival in the character of her lord 
and master. However, by the mediation of mutual 
friends, and the payment of a considerable sum, he 
consented to live apart from her. But she naturally 
felt that he might, whenever he pleased, violate this 
agreement ; a moment's change of humour, a sud- 
den thought, and he possessed the legal right to 
insist on sharing her home. This dreaded doom 
kept her in a slate of continual agitation. 

One night, while lying on her sleepless couch, a 
sudden thought struck her. In the morning she 
communicated it to a legal gentleman of conside- 
rable talent; but the marriage having been cele- 



116 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

brated in New York, it was necessary to write for 
information to America, and no further steps could 
be taken for several months. 

In the expectation that legal proceedings w r ould 
be instituted in America, Madame Malibran wrote 
to Lafayette, requesting him to' use his interest in 
her behalf, and lend his powerful aid in assisting her. 
This she need scarcely have asked, since the veteran 
patriot regarded her with the affection of a father, 
bestowing on her that admiration which he was 
ever ready to accord to talent. Often would he 
laughingly say, " Maria Garcia is my last love; I 
don't think any one will supplant her." 

Madame Malibran, about this time, made the ac- 
quaintance, or, perhaps, I should more properly say, 
gained the friendship, of M. Viardot in rather an 
extraordinary manner. As that friendship formed 
a feature in her after life, I may relate the anecdote 
here. Madame Malibran was remarkably fond of 
riddles and charades, and delighted in puzzling peo- 
ple to guess them. One evening she was repeating 
a number of ingenious riddles at a soiree given by 
M. . All were laughing, guessing, and ap- 
plauding her to the skies, when she perceived M. 
Viardot quietly seated in a corner of the room, 
apparently taking no interest in that which amused 
the rest of the company. This piqued her. It is 
true, M. Viardot was almost a stranger ; but then, 
again, no pretty woman likes to be neglected, even 
by one out of a thousand. Maria again uttered 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 117 

another sally of wit, but in vain she looked for a 
smile from the sedate gentleman in the corner. 
Determined no longer to bear this, she rose after 
her next charade, and approaching him, asked in a 
low voice, " Give me your opinion of my last." 

" It was not good," gravely replied M. Viardot, 

" because .;" and here he entered into his reasons 

for condemning it. 

She listened to him attentively, and when he had 
done speaking, she could not help remarking on the 
singularity of his disapproval, since every one else 
applauded her. 

" True," rejoined Viardot, " they seek to please 
you by flattery. But I really esteem you ; therefore 
prefer telling you the truth, even at the risk of dis- 
pleasing you." 

For an instant she looked attentively at him ; then 
holding out her hand, she grasped his, saying, " At 
length I have found sincerity. Grant me your 
friendship — mine is yours for life." 

I cannot refrain from relating another circum- 
stance which occurred on the same evening. 
Madame Malibran, as I believe every one is aware, 
had a remarkable talent for musical composition. 
This talent, however, she exercised only for amuse- 
ment, giving to her friends, or to charities, the 
pieces she composed. On this occasion Madame 

de was present : a lady for whom our fair 

cantatrice had the greatest respect, but whose 
pecuniary circumstances were deplorably reduced. 



I 18 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

Willingly would Maria Malibran have assisted her, 
but the pride of Madame precluded the possi- 
bility of a pecuniary offer ; she, therefore, resorted 
to an ingenious little artifice to effect her generous 

purpose. Madame 's son, a lad of sixteen, was 

present. 

" I understand that this young gentleman has a 
great talent for poetry," said Madame Malibran to 
the mother. " I am going to propose a little specu- 
lation between us. Having written six airs for 
publication, I want words for them: will you 
undertake to furnish them, and we will divide the 
profits V 9 

The proposal was instantly accepted ; the young 
poet produced the verses, and they were sent to 
Madame Malibran. The songs were never pub- 
lished ; but Madame de received six hundred 

francs as her son's share of the profit arising from 
them. 

In the month of February De Beriot started for 
Brussels, from whence, a few weeks afterwards, he 
wrote to Madame Malibran, through his sister, 
offering her a most advantageous engagement in 
Holland. Her pride again took the alarm, and 
for the second time this extraordinary pair quar- 
relled. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 1 19 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Madame Malibran revisits England. Madame Lalande. Pro- 
fessional jealousy among public performers. Madame Ma- 
libran's description of the deb&t of Madame Lalande. II 
Pirato. Donzelli's bows. Personal appearance of Madame 
Lalande. Her tremulous tones. Madame Malibran's style 
of writing. Correspondence. Laporte's embarrassments. 
Madame Malibran's first performance at the King's Theatre 
in the season of 1830. Her own account of her success. 
Her anxiety to obtain a divorce. Lady Flint. Sir George 
Warrender. Incongruities in the disposition and feelings of 
Madame Malibran. 

The London season again brought Maria back to 
England. 

Several of her friends advised her to relinquish 
her London engagement ; and it already began to be 
whispered that Laporte was in an insolvent state. 
But the chance of terms such as she had before 
obtained was too tempting to be rejected ; so, at all 
hazards, she determined to keep her engagement. 
On her arrival she found that Madame Lalande 



120 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

was the prima donna whom she herself was to 
succeed. This ladv had become a considerable 
favourite in England, which annoyed Madame 
Malibran not a little. Jealousy is a feeling which, 
in a greater or a lesser degree, pervades public 
performers ; nor do I believe any actor or actress is 
capable of fairly judging of the merits of another. 
Notwithstanding her naturally good disposition, 
Madame Malibran could never endure a rival ; but 
her feelings on this subject are best described in 
her own language, contained in a letter addressed 
by her at this period to an intimate friend. 

" My dearest and best Friend, 

"I determined not to trouble you till I should 
have something worth writing about, but I cannot 
now help breaking the ice. Though I have no 
particular subject to treat on, yet I feel sure you 
will be delighted to see my scribble ; for I judge 
from myself, and I know I should be delighted to 
see yours. I fancy I see you reading these lines, 
and striking your forehead, whilst you exclaim, 
6 What strange creatures women are !' They are 
indeed — I confess it. What can I say more ? 

" Let me see if I can think of some little bit of 
news — I have it : I will give you an account of the 
debut of Madame Lalande. 

" I went to the opera with Lady Flint, her hus- 
band, and her daughter ; and having taken my seat 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 121 

and adjusted my lorgnette, I impatiently awaited the 
entrance of the Pirato, who was to be represented 
by Donzelli. 

" The overture commenced. Humph ! very so so. 
It is not effective. The curtain rose. The opening 
scene was pretty, and was loudly applauded. Dra- 
matic authors and composers know how much they 
owe to the scene-painter. 

" Enter II Pirato. He blustered, and strutted 
about, sang loudly, enchanted the audience, and 
was clapped. In acknowledgment of the applause, 
Donzelli bowed at least thirty times, and continued 
bowing until he was actually behind the side- 
scenes. 

" The first air was tolerable. 

" Change of scene. 

11 Venga la bella Italiana,* said I to my little self. 
I was all impatience, and as she appeared I stretched 
over the box to catch a glimpse of her. Alas ! what 
a disappointment ! Picture to yourself a woman 
of about forty, with light hair and a vulgar broad 
face, with an unfavourable expression, a bad figure, 
as clumsy a foot as my own, and most unbecomingly 
dressed. 

" The recitative commenced. Her voice trembled 
so, that none could find out whether it was sweet or 
harsh. I therefore waited patiently for the cavatina. 

* This is meant as a little bit of malice ; the fact being that 
Madame Lalande was neither handsome nor an Italian. 

VOL* I. 11 



122 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

It commenced, and the prima donna opened her 
mouth with a long tremulous note. 

" Concluding that this arose from timidity, I could 
not help pitying her. But, alas ! the undulating 
tones of her voice continued throughout, and utterly 
spoiled the pretty cavatina. At its conclusion she 
was vociferously applauded, and made a thousand 
curtsies, which is the custom in London. Next 
came the beautiful duet. In this she was just as 
cold and tremulous as before. In a word, not to 
weary you with a long account of each monjeau, 
she finished her part in the same bad style in which 
she began it. 

" She had to sing a very fine air just before the 
conclusion, where her husband and her lover had 
been killed. She advanced to the front of the stage, 
leading in her hand a little child, who would very 
much have preferred going to sleep to being thus 
dragged on the stage to hear a lachrymose chant. 
Madame Lalande sang it without spirit, and conse- 
quently produced no effect. Notwithstanding this, 
she was called for, after the fall of the curtain, and 
received great applause. Yet the general opinion is, 
that she w r as very mediocre. ' Or vien il meglio] 
as Susanne says : I have discovered that this tremu- 
lous style is Madame Lalande's constant manner of 
singing. It is her fashion — immovable, fixed, 
eternal ! You may therefore guess how well our 
voices are likely to blend together — two and two, 
like three goats. Her middle notes are wiry, and 



OF MADAME MALIBRAIY. 123 

have a harsh and shrill effect. The opera contains 
some good music, but it is decidedly feeble. There 
is a splendid trio sung by the lover, the husband, and 
the wife. The latter is so constant and faithful to 
the Pirate, that when the lover and the husband 
throw themselves together at her feet, she sternly 
refuses to follow her consort. Another person 
would, perhaps, have described this scene more 
intelligibly, which, by-the-by, is very much like that 
between Otello, Iago, and Desdemona. But I, who 
know to whom I am writing, feel convinced you 
will understand me. I shall therefere take no pains 
to clear up the mystery which always pervades my 
explanations.* 

" The proverb says truly, ' Amongst wolves one 
learns to howl.' I perceive I can neither utter a 
single sentence, nor write a single line, without in- 
troducing some parentheses. How pleasant it is, 
when really interested in a subject, to have to wade 

* Madame Malibran, in her letters, frequently expressed 
herself with so much vagueness, that it is not always easy to 
understand her allusions. There often appears to be a private 
understanding between herself and the person she addresses, 
which renders the correspondence unintelligible to those who 
do not possess the key to the subject referred to. Some of 
her letters appear nonsensical and mysterious to the un- 
initiated reader. I have, however, transcribed them word for 
word, considering such to be my duty as a faithful biographer, 
and believing the reader would rather peruse the genuine 
effusions of her eccentric mind than any garbled explanations, 
which after all might be erroneous. 



124 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

zigzag through a thousand interruptions before you 
arrive at the point you wish to come to. You un- 
derstand what I mean. It is a hint I give you en 
passant, and one which I trust you will attend to 
when you write me those letters I so anxiously 
look for, telling me all about your health, your 
plans," &c. 

I may here transcribe a few letters from Madame 
Malibran, written about the same period as the 
above. 

"29th April, 1830. 

" I am to appear immediately, because Laporte 
is rather in a difficult position just now. He is 
losing nightly. Madame Lalande has done him 
harm, and he expects me to come and drag him out 
of his trouble. 

"You know that the chimney-sweepers dance 
about the streets of London on the first of May* 
dressed out in tinsel and flowers, with their cheeks 
bedaubed with paint. Luckily I do not make my 
debut on that day. Comparisons might be drawn ; 
but no doubt I shall have to endure comparisons no 
less complimentary. 

" My fears have such an effect upon me, that I 
am downright ill ; but enough of this subject. 

"I am going to breakfast. To-night, after the 
opera, I'll again write, and tell you my fate." 



OF MADAME MAL1BRAN. 125 

" 30th April, 1830. 

11 1 made my first appearance last night in the 
Cenerentola. My debut was what is called here a 
most successful one, though, if I had had the same 
reception in Paris, I should have reckoned it half a 
failure. However, I was called for at the conclu- 
sion of the opera, and was applauded from the 
boxes as well as the pit* 

" My voice is said to have improved since last 
year, as well as my figure, which is much admired. 
Don't imagine that I am vain of that, but I am de- 
termined to tell you all. I am also considered very 
gracious for consenting to make my first appearance 
on Thursday, an evening generally considered un- 
fashionable. But, as my name drew a full audience, 
I was well pleased, since it secures me in favour 
for the rest of the season. I saw when I was on 
the stage, my friend Louckard; I nodded to him in 
such a way as to show that I did not wish to take 
any further notice of him. To-morrow I repeat the 
same character, and 1 have no doubt I shall do it 
better. This evening I sing at a concert for the 
benefit of' decayed musicians.' 

* Need I again assure you that you are every 
thing to me 1 You know it well* To you I owe 
my present happiness, as well as that which I en- 
joyed in Paris* I still wear the ring you gave me 
— perfect emblem of our friendship — a knot which, 
the more you try to undo it, becomes the tighter. 
Is it not a perfect image of true affection, of pure 

n* 



126 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

and long-enduring friendship ? Yes ! the more I 
think on it, the more certain do I feel that friend- 
ship is eternal, enduring through ages to come, con- 
soling us even after death. This reflection makes 
me long for eternity, and yet I feel there are also 
miseries that will live for ever, 

" I have written to Viardot, and he has done all 
he could to comfort me in my distress. I have also 
told my unhappy story to Lady Flint;* she has 
mentioned it to one of her friends, who informs her 
he was himself extricated from a similar misfortune 
by an old nobleman, (above seventy years of age,) 
who knows the laws of almost every country by 
heart. This morning Sir George Warrender, who 
is the old friend of the still older nobleman, is coming 
to see me at twelve to talk it over. As I hazard 
nothing in doing so, I shall let him know as much 
as may suit my views, (and not one word more,) in 
order to get his advice upon the subject, and thus 
relieve my oppressed heart. 

♦'If you were near me, and I could talk to you, 
I should seek no other consolation. But, my friend, 
I beseech you do not suddenly surprise me ; when 
the happy day of our meeting is fixed, let me know 
it. Give me a little time to prepare for the happy 
event, and by anticipation enjoy my coming happi- 
ness. Yes, you are the source of my every delight ; 
you alone can make the drooping plant once more 

* She here evidently alludes to her divorce. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 127 

raise its head. There is one flower, heart's-ease, 
which must be ever with you, because you are all 
goodness — because you delight in consoling the 
afflicted — because you counsel as a father — like 
a brother — because — because — but stay — I should 
never have done with my becauses, were I to 
enumerate all your merits. 

" Adieu — I must go and dress to receive the old 
friend of the old friend, and after that 1 must attend 
rehearsal. 

" Adieu — father, mother, brother, and sister — 
adieu ! — for to me vou are all these." 

" May 1st. 

" I have had company with me all day, which 
has prevented my writing. Even at this moment 
my carriage is waiting to take me to rehearsal; 
and if I keep it waiting, I shall be in the predica- 
ment of poor Cinderella : my coachman will turn 
into a rat, and my horses into a pair of mice. I 
will write you the result of this evening's per- 
formance — a fashionable evening here." 

" May 1st. 

" I have played, my dear friend, and can safely 
say a better house never was seen — full to suffoca- 
tion; indeed many could not gain admittance. I 
sang better than on Thursday. The other per- 
formers were delighted with me. They declare 
they like me very much, and they came after the 



128 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

opera to congratulate me. I heard them, as they 
went away, say to each other, ' This is something 
like singing — what splendid talent!' This is very 
gratifying to me, though I know it must give pain 
to others ; but I can't help that." 

The foregoing letter depicts Malibran in her true 
character. It exhibits that mixture of the frivolous 
and the serious which characterized her manners 
and conversation. Every stroke of her pen was 
smart and piquant. Her ideas and feelings alter- 
nated rapidly from the most earnest reasoning to 
childish vanity — from the purest sentiments of 
friendship to the bitterness of jealousy. 

One thing, however, is certain — she worshipped 
the shrine of friendship with the most ardent devo- 
tion. Alas ! in some instances she reposed too firm 
a confidence in it. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAU. 129 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Madame Malibran's favourite characters. She takes the part 
of Romeo, previously performed by Pasta. Her success. 
Madame Malibran's first acquaintance with Labi ache. His 
excellent character. The Italian refugee. Subscription 
to enable him to return home. Madame Lablache, Donzelli, 
&c. Madame Malibran's subscription. Delicate performance 
of a generous act. 

During the season of 1830 Madame Malibran 
performed in the Cenerentola, Romeo e Julietta, 
Otello, and II Matrimonio Segreto. The last-men- 
tioned opera was brought out for the benefit of 
Donzelli. Madame Malibran took the character 
of Fidalma. She dressed the part so well, and 
altogether presented such a perfect personification 
of the character Cimarosa intended, that her per- 
formance excited the highest admiration. She was 
dressed quite in the old costume, and, throwing all 
coquetry aside, she transformed herself into an old 
woman. The consequence was complete success. 

In accepting the part of Romeo, after the brilliant 



130 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

performance of the character by Pasta, Malibran 
felt she was taking a bold step: she nevertheless un- 
dertook it, and performed it triumphantly. Though 
fully aware of the difficulty of taking a character 
already pronounced to be the chef-d'azuvre of an- 
other, yet she resolved to make the trial, and it was 
crowned with success. 

It was during this season (1830) that Maria first 
made the acquaintance of Lablache, whose high 
professional talents can only be equalled by his pri- 
vate worth. 

The acquaintance soon ripened into a cordial 
friendship. One day a poor Italian refugee applied 
to Lablache for assistance. He had received per- 
mission to return home, but alas! he was destitute 
of the means. The next day, at rehearsal, Lablache 
broached the subject of the refugee's distress, and 
proposed a subscription. Madame Lablache, Don- 
zelli, and several others, subscribed each two gui- 
neas. " And you, Maria," said Lablache, turning 
to Madame Malibran, "what will you give?' 
" The same as the rest," answered she carelessly, 
and went on practising her part. With this little 
treasure the charitable and kind-hearted Lablache 
flew to succour his unfortunate countryman. The 
next morning Maria took an opportunity to speak 
to him alone. i{ Here are ten pounds more for your 
poor friend," said she, slipping a note into his hands : 
" I would not give more than the others yesterday, 
fearing they might think me ostentatious. Take it 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN, 131 

to him, but do not say a word about it to any one." 
Lablache joyfully hastened to the lodgings of the 
Italian refugee. He had left them, and had gone 
to embark. Nothing daunted, Lablache proceeded 
to the Tower stairs. The vessel was under weigh, 
and his friend on board. He hailed a boat, and of- 
fered the boatman a large reward, if he would row 
after the vessel, and overtake her. He succeeded 
in doing so. Lablache went on board, and pre- 
sented the welcome donation to the refugee, who, 
falling on his knees, poured forth a heartfelt prayer 
for her who was thus ready to succour a fellow- 
creature in distress. 



132 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

Madame Malibran's occasional proneness to satire. Her pre- 
judices and dislikes. Her description of a lady of rank. 
The French Revolution. Early intimation of that event 
communicated to Madame Malibran. The fear of political 
troubles. The Duchess de Canizzaro's soiree. The Duke 
of Wellington's flattering notice of Madame Malibran. 
Lucrative engagements. Her power of enduring fatigue. 
Rapid travelling. Reconciliation between Madame Mali- 
bran and De Beriot. They leave London for Paris. Ma- 
dame Malibran separates from Madame Naldi. Terms of 
her engagement in Paris. 

Madame Malibran was sometimes extremely 
satirical, and she was apt to conceive prejudices 
and dislikes. Of this the following letter, written 
in the month of May, 1830, will afford some proof. 

" I dine to-morrow at Madame 's. What a 

strange woman she is ! Her manner of receiving me, 
though I brought a letter of recommendation from 
her daughter, was not less extraordinary than her 



OF MADAME MALIBRAtf. 133 

mode of asking me to sing at four concerts for her. 
The remuneration she offered was so different from 
what I usually receive, that I was compelled rather 
to give her my services gratis, than stand bargain- 
ing with her for an hour. Then she asked me to 
dinner to-morrow, thinking it a good set-off for my 
trouble. 

" You know what an effect milk has when taken 
after oysters. This woman's look has precisely 
the same effect upon me. Her cold and disdainful 
air makes my blood curdle. I dread the idea of 
going there to-morrow* What an agreeable family 
dinner it will be ! 

" When I write, I fancy you are by my side, and 
that I am relating all my griefs to you. It appears 
to me that you are present — would to Heaven I 
were not mistaken ! Tell me, my dear friend, 
whether I am rightly informed : I have heard that 
we are about to have a second edition of the French 
Revolution. I long to know whether there be any 
likelihood of its success. If it should succeed, we 
shall probably have something of the same sort 
here ; in that case 1 may as well stay where 1 am. 
I in vain try to elevate my ideas and become a 
heroine ; I confess myself a sad coward ; I cannot 
get rid of my fears." 

It is evident from the above letter that Madame 
Malibra'n dreaded to visit France during the troubles 
of 1830. It appears that she had obtained correct 

vol. i. 12 



134 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

and early information of the struggle about to take 
place. She treats the subject in her usual style. 
Though looking forward to the event as one to be 
dreaded, yet she speaks of it with all the buoyant 
levity which characterizes her correspondence. 

Her next letter shows how much importance she 
attached to public applause. 

"4th May, 1830. 

" I did not dine with Madame . I really 

felt afraid of her, so I merely went in the evening : 
she, however, improves upon acquaintance. I sang 
for her, and afterwards went to the Duchess de 
Canizzaro's. Madame Lalande was there, but I 
was the object of all the fanatisme. The rooms 
were crowded, and the company mounted on chairs 
and tables to catch a glimpse of me. I never saw 
such enthusiasm. The Duke of Wellington came 
and shook hands with me : he is a delightful person. 
All the ladies present asked me to go and see them, 
and begged of me to give them my address, that 
they might call on me ; in fact, you would have 
been enchanted had you seen their kindness towards 
your little girl, your spoiled pet. 

" Adieu — I am off to a rehearsal of the ' Matri- 
monio Segreto,' which is to be performed on Satur- 
day for Donzelli's benefit." 

Though engaged at the opera, she made the most 
of her time by singing at concerts in London. This, 
though fatiguing, was highly profitable to her. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 135 

On Wednesday, the 24th of May, she thus wrote 
to a female friend. 

" I must set off for Bath after the Concert of An- 
cient Music. I shall arrive there at nine in the morn- 
ing, and at one o'clock start for Bristol, where I am 
to perform with Donzelli in the third act of Otello. 
I am to have one hundred guineas for my trip, and 
shall return on Thursday evening to London to sing 
at the opera. This is hard but well-paid work." 

In August she again visited Bath, and sang at 
several concerts, receiving seventy-five pounds for 
each performance. Having accidentally heard that 
a concert was to be given at Calais for the benefit 
of the poor, she instantly ordered her carriage, 
started off, arrived there, sang gratuitously, added a 
considerable donation to the receipts, and returned 
to England on the following morning. 

Considering the delicacy of her frame, it is won- 
derful how she could bear up against these constant 
fatigues ; but she had been early taught to despise 
what Garcia used to call les faiblesses de la sexe. 
She cheerfully encountered exertion and fatigue. 
Her moral courage overcame her physical weak- 
ness, and enabled her to achieve what more robust 
females would have feared to attempt. 

But, amidst all her apparent gayety, our heroine 
was deeply sensible to the unfortunate condition in 
which she was placed : deserted by her family, and 



136 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

separated from the man she loved, many were her 
hours of sorrow. She considered herself slighted 
by him for whom she had sacrificed all, yet still she 
could not banish his image from her breast. The 
following is a letter she wrote to a friend who had 
forwarded to her one from De' Beriot, from whom 
she had not heard since their quarrel. 

« May 1st, 1832. 

" I have received your dear letter, with its en- 
closure . • ♦ . 

" It appears to me that it was very useless to ad- 
dress to you justifications which could be founded 
only on the errors of one who, on the other hand, 
conceives that she has a right to complain. Why 
seek excuses — why represent circumstances in an 
unfair point of view, for the purpose of self-justifica- 
tion ? Might not that 'person be mistaken with re- 
spect to the opinions to which the journey would 
give rise 1 Had she not previously given sufficient 
proof that she more readily listened to the dictates 
of her heart than to those of her understanding ? 
The objection, therefore, ought not to have arisen 
with her, but with one whose cooler judgment was 
better enabled to calculate consequences. 

" If you had not read the letter yourself, you 
might have been misled. But, thank Heaven, you 
know the whole affair ! 

" As to ton amie, she wept like a child, on peru- 
sing the letter you enclosed. She thought that per- 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 137 

haps she had suffered her warmth of temper to 
betray her too far — that perhaps she did not know 
him well enough to judge him — that perhaps — in 
short I cannot tell how many foolish ideas occurred 
to her. However, I can assure you that she did 
not sleep a wink during the whole of the night, and 
in the morning her pale face sufficiently denoted the 
painful subject which had occupied her thoughts. 
. . . . But I will say no more on this subject. 
.... This evening I perform in the third act of 
Romeo e Giulietta" 

The above letter, in spite of its obscurity, indi- 
cates that a reconciliation between Madame Mali- 
bran and De Beriot w T as not far distant. 

Accordingly, a short time after the letter was 
written, De Beriot arrived in London, and he and 
Madame Malibran set out together for Paris. 

Soon after her arrival there, Madame Malibran 
separated from Madame Naldi, and took up her 
abode in a small house which she had hired in the 
Rue Blanche. 

She entered into an engagement with Severini 
and Robert, the new directors of the Theatre 
Italien. The terms were 1175 francs for each 
performance. 

12* 



138 MEMOIRS AJVD LETTERS 



CHAPTER XIX. 

Differences between Madame Malibran and the directors 
of the Opera. Imprudent disregard of her health. Evil 
consequences of her over-exertions. Fainting fit. Un- 
lucky mistake. The manager's dilemma. A desperate 
remedy. Madame Malibran's frequent use of restoratives. 
False reports on this subject. Her indifference to pain and 
exhaustion. 

During this season Madame Malibran did not 
appear in any new characters, but she was more 
than ever admired in her old parts. She was ably 
seconded by Mademoiselle Sontag. Between these 
two charming singers there was a constant struggle 
for pre-eminence, a desire to outvie each other, 
which gave a spur to their exertions and nightly 
attracted crowds to hear them. 

Madame Malibran was continually at variance 
with the directors of the Opera. They remonstrated 
with her on the little regard she paid to the preser- 
vation of her health, and the probable injury her 
voice would incur from her fondness for every 



OF MADAME MALIBRAX. 139 

species of amusement. Unlike other singers, she 
never spared herself. On all occasions she was 
ready to volunteer her services. She amused her- 
self with riding, dancing, and all sorts of violent 
exercises, and her fondness for late hours was 
highly prejudicial to her vocal powers. 

One evening she had promised me her company 
at an evening party. The managers unexpectedly 
determined that a benefit at which she was bound to 
perform should take place that night. Madame 
Malibran remonstrated but in vain. Monsieur 
Robert was obdurate, " Well," said Maria, " make 
what arrangement you please : I will be at the 
theatre because it is my duty, but I'll go to Madame 
Merlin's because it is my pleasure !" 

She kept her word. After playing Semiramide 
she came to my house, sang three songs, ate a 
hearty supper, and waltzed till long after the dawn 
of day. 

She did not, however, always escape the ill con- 
sequences of this imprudence, though the public 
were little aware of the state of suffering under 
which she appeared before them. On one occasion, 
having passed the whole night at a ball, on her re- 
turn home, finding she had to play that evening, 
she retired to bed and slept till noon. On rising, 
she ordered her saddle-horse, galloped off, returned 
home at six, partook of a hurried dinner, and away 
to the Opera, where she was to play Arsace. 
Having dressed for the part, she was about to an- 



140 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

nounce her readiness, when, overcome by exhaus- 
tion, she fell down in a fainting-fit. In an instant 
the alarm spread, and assistance was summoned. 
Twenty different remedies were tried, twenty bottles 
of perfume and other restoratives proffered, and 
among others a bottle of hartshorn. In the confu- 
sion of the moment, Monsieur Robert (who was 
terrified out of his senses by this unfortunate oc- 
currence) unluckily seized the hartshorn, and applied 
it to the lips instead of the nose of the fainting prima 
donna. Madame Malibran recovered, but alas ! the 
hartshorn had frightfully blistered her lips. Here 
was an unforeseen misfortune; the house was already 
filled— the audience were beginning to manifest im- 
patience. It was now too late to change the per- 
formance — Monsieur Robert knew not what apology 
to offer. " Stay," exclaimed Madame Malibran, 
" I'll remedy this." Taking up a pair of scissors, 
she approached the looking-glass, and, though suf- 
fering the most acute pain, she cut from her lips the 
skin which had been raised by the blisters. In ten 
minutes afterwards she w 7 as on the stage singing 
with Semiramide-Sontag. 

It has often been said that she indulged in the 
use of strong spirits; that, in short, she was addicted 
to intemperate drinking. This was a mistake, 
arising from her occasional use of tonics. To these 
she had recourse when her failing strength required 
artificial stimulus. When nature refused to assist 
her, which was frequently the case, she would fly 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 141 

to these restoratives. She would sometimes take a 
glass of Maderia to renovate her voice, and enable 
her to accomplish her fatiguing tasks. It was not 
any partiality for strong drinks. Could vinegar 
have produced the same effect, she would have 
flown to it. To accomplish her triumphs, she set 
physical force at defiance: nothing daunted her. 
In the instance above mentioned, her lacerated and 
bleeding lips caused her to suffer severe pain 
throughout the whole opera. To gratify her 
audience at Manchester, she sang three times the 
duet from Andromica within a few hours of her 
death — a death caused by extreme and unceasing 
exertions. 



142 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XX. 

Garcia engages himself at the opera in Paris. Alteration in 
his voice. Madame Malibran's fears for her father's failure. 
Garcia's extraordinary musical talent. Anecdote related 
by Madame Rossini. Musical tour deforce. 

Garcia, who had for some time past retired from 
public performance, now accepted an engagement 
offered to him by the managers of the Italian Opera 
in Paris. This annoyed his daughter very much. 
His once fine tenor voice had become a barritone, 
and he could no longer touch those parts originally 
written for him. Madame Malibran trembled for 
him. She knew the unbending spirit of her father, 
which, like her own, struggled against every 
obstacle ; she also knew that his pride would rebel 
against declining any character proposed to him. 
She therefore feared that, by some signal failure, 
he might forfeit those laurels which his former 
talents had so triumphantly won. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 143 

One evening she felt particularly anxious and 
uneasy. Her father had accepted a part which 
she well knew he was unfitted for. It was not 
within the compass of his voice. It was beyond 
the power he then possessed ; but still she dared not 
say a word to him. In the greatest trepidation she 
entered her box. A sudden hoarseness attacked 
him shortly before he proceeded to the theatre. 
"No matter," said he, "I will contrive to get 
through my part," and he did get through it ad- 
mirably. By the ready exercise of that musical 
talent with which he was so eminently gifted, he 
adapted the part to the state of his voice, trans- 
posing to an octave lower those passages which 
were too high for him, and adroitly taking the 
written notes where they came within the compass 
of his voice. The promptitude and accuracy with 
which he performed these changes were truly sur- 
prising. 

The following anecdote affords a still more 
striking example of Garcia's musical talent : it was 
told to me by Madame Rossini* (then Mademoiselle 
Colbran,) as the most extraordinary instance of 
musical power she had ever heard of. 

Mademoiselle Colbran and Garcia were both en- 
gaged at Naples. A new opera was to be pro- 
duced, and Garcia very much disliked the part 
allotted to him. He neglected to study it, and made 
a boast of being totally ignorant of it. At length, 
after a dozen preparatory rehearsals, during which 



144 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

he had merely looked it over, the day of final re- 
hearsal arrived. Garcia attended, but, alas! not 
one note, not one word of his part, had he learned. 

Mademoiselle Colbran was in despair. " For 
heaven's sake!" she said, "let us get this piece 
put off. If you are so imperfect, we shall all be 
hissed." 

" Don't alarm yourself," replied Garcia ; " I will 
get over the difficulty. Of course you know your 
own part V 9 

" Certainly," answered the lady. 

" Well, then," said he, turning to the prompter, 
"think of nobody but me; give me out the words 
distinctly, and as to the music, that's my affair." 

Far from being satisfied, poor Mademoiselle Col- 
bran never slept that night. She almost fainted 
with agitation next evening when she saw Garcia 
come on the stage. He had acknowledged that he 
had not learned a single note of the part he was 
about to undertake. What, then, was her surprise 
when, with cool confidence, he sang a beautiful 
cavatina, and having finished it commenced a 
well-arranged recitative, and joined in several con- 
certed pieces 1 In short, he went through the whole 
opera with unbounded applause, but without giving 
one note of the composer's music. 

The fact was, during the rehearsals he had at- 
tentively studied the harmonies of the accompani- 
ments. Having made himself thoroughly acquainted 
with them, he was enabled to substitute for the part 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 145 

which the composer had assigned to him, one of his 
own adaptation, improvising, as he proceeded, in 
the most extraordinary manner possible. 

Madame Rossini always mentioned this as the 
most astonishing example of musical talent and 
facility that had ever come under her notice. 



vol. i. 13 



146 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XXI. 

Madame Malibran performs Otello instead of Desdemona. 
Representation of male characters by women. Madame 
Malibran visits England and Brussels. She breaks off her 
engagement in Paris. Perplexity of the managers of the 
opera. Intercession of M. Viardot. Madame Malibran 
returns to keep her engagement in Paris. Her sudden 
refusal to perform. Cause of her indisposition. She for- 
feits some degree of her popularity. 

At the close of the season Madame Malibran 
chose the opera of " Otello" for her benefit. With 
the view of presenting a novelty, she was induced 
to personate the Moor, instead of the gentle Des- 
demona; but, like a similar attempt made by Ma- 
dame Pasta in London, the result was a decided 
ailure. 

The small and feminine form of Madame Mali- 
bran was in no respect adapted to the manly and 
heroic character of Otello. The dusky colour, too, 
with which she tinged her countenance, not only 
deformed the beauty of her features, but concealed 



OF MADAME MAL1BRAN. 147 

all that flexibility of expression which was their 
peculiar charm. If in contralto parts the public 
have sometimes tolerated the representation of male 
characters by women, it is only because they have 
not previously seen those same characters personated 
by men. 

In the spring, Madame Malibran returned to 
London, and played the whole season on the same 
terms as usual ; she also sang in several concerts at 
Bath, Bristol, and Manchester, passed a few weeks 
at Brussels, and returned to Paris in the latter end 
of September. 

But previously to the opening of the Opera in 
Paris, her delicate state of health induced her to 
write to Mr. Severini, stating her determination to 
relinquish her engagement, and, without waiting an- 
other moment, she started for Brussels. 

This intimation filled the directors of the Opera 
with dismay. They found themselves suddenly 
placed in a most difficult dilemma. To supply 
Malibran's place was impossible. She had a part 
in almost every piece ; it was therefore equally im- 
possible to do without her. To have closed the 
theatre would have been ruinous to all connected 
with it. What was to be done ? They held counsel 
together, but they could come to no satisfactory 
conclusion. At length it was proposed to try what 
could be effected by the intercession of a friend. At 
the earnest solicitations of the managers, M. Viardot 
proceeded to Brussels, to use his influence with the 



148 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

capricious cantatrice. At first she was inexorable, 
but after some persuasion, and a fair representation 
of the injustice she was doing to the establishment, 
to the public, and to herself, she suddenly started up 
— " You are right ; I see now that I have acted in- 
considerately ; but when I resolved to leave Paris 
I was very miserable. Come, let us be off quickly." 
In a few hours she was again on her way to Paris. 

On her arrival, she entered into new terms with 
the managers, by which she was to be allowed to 
retire before the close of the season. Her health, 
however, still continued precarious ; and this cir- 
cumstance injured her much in public opinion. 
It frequently happened that when an opera was 
advertised, and people had already secured boxes, 
bills were pasted at the doors, announcing that, in 
consequence of the sudden indisposition of Madame 
Malibran, the opera w r as unavoidably changed. The 
next evening she was perhaps well, and played w 7 ith 
more than her accustomed spirit. The consequence 
was, she was looked upon as uncertain and capri- 
cious, and she forfeited some share of the popularity 
she formerly possessed. 

She, on her part, became irritable, her good 
spirits deserted her, and her whole manner appeared 
to change. One evening, when she was playing 
Arsace, towards the close of the first act she found 
herself unwell. On leaving the stage she proceeded 
to her dressing-room, and locking herself up, de- 
clared that she would play no more that night. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAJV. 149 

Entreaty and remonstrance were equally vain ; and 
the manager found it no easy matter to appease the 
dissatisfaction of the audience, the majority of whom 
regarded the indisposition as feigned. No doubt it 
was in part attributable to her keen susceptibility of 
feeling. She was at that time enceinte, and the idea 
of her dishonour haunted her. She imagined that 
every body was aware of her situation, and she 
became gloomy and fretful. She nevertheless 
persevered in performing as long as she was able, 
hoping thereby to mislead curiosity and conjecture. 



13* 



150 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XXII. 

Coolness of Madame Malibran's former friends. Her father 
and the Countess de Sparre refuse to see her. A dishonour- 
able suggestion. Madame Malibran's indignation. Her 
wounded feelings. General Lafayette interests himself to 
obtain her divorce. Legal discussions. Informality in the 
performance of the marriage ceremony. Garcia reconciled 
to his daughter. Joyful feeling excited by that circum- 
stance. Madame Malibran's letter to the Countess de 
Merlin. De Beriot and his violin. 

Madame Malibran soon began to feel the change 
of her position in society. Those who had formerly 
courted her now shunned her, or merely invited her 
in her professional capacity. Her father, too, re- 
fused to see her, and Madame de Sparre, the friend 
whom of all others she most esteemed, closed her 
doors against her. This was the most severe blow 
of all ; and though her extraordinary talents still 
continued to. win unbounded applause in public, yet 
her private moments were embittered by the slights 
of those who once respected her. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAtf. 151 

Under these circumstances several friends advised 
her to return to her husband, promising their coun- 
tenance and support if she would do so. 

" What! hide my fault at the price of such an act 
of baseness 1 Never ! it were far better to avow my 
dishonour and suffer for it." 

One evening she came to a musical party at my 
house. Just as she was approaching the piano for 
the purpose of singing the duet in Semiramide, "Eh 
ben, a te ferisce," she cast her eyes on a lady who 
had formerly been her friend, but who now looked 
coldly on her. Madame Malibran turned pale. 
Her eyes overflowed with tears, and turning to me, 
she murmured, "Not a look, not the slightest sign 
of recognition from one who once so sincerely 
loved me. She considers me unworthy of her no- 
tice." 

" Courage, Maria," replied I in a whisper ; " do 
not thus give way to your feelings : when the con- 
cert is over, we'll see what can be done." 

This assurance soothed her, and she went through 
the duet, though in evident distress. After the con- 
cert I spoke to Madame who, at my request, 

consented to exchange a few words with poor 
Maria. She, however, confined herself to terms of 
cold civility, and no further reconciliation could be 
brought about. 

Her mortified feelings, and the endeavours she 
made to conceal her situation, rendered her truly 
an object of pity. Compelled nightly to appear 



152 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

before the public, and often forced to hear the most 
coarse remarks, she took a dislike to that profession 
which had hitherto been to her a source of plea- 
sure. , 

Her thoughts now reverted with redoubled force 
to the one all-absorbing hope of her future life — I 
allude to the legal separation which she had long 
sought from her husband ; this, however, was not 
now sufficient; a divorce became absolutely neces- 
sary, though it was a step attended with much 
difficulty. The French courts refused to take cog- 
nizance of formalities gone through in America, 
while the tribunals of that country declared their 
inability to interfere, since the marriage had not 
been contracted according to the laws of the United 
States. 

In vain did her good old friend General Lafayette 
pore over the statutes of the two nations, in the hope 
of finding some precedent that would be applicable 
to her case. Many distinguished members of the 
French bar exerted all their ingenuity in endeavour- 
ing to discover some informality which might fur- 
nish a ground for a divorce, 

At length the following plan was thought of. 
Monsieur Malibran was a native of France, yet, on 
establishing himself in America, he had demanded 
and obtained letters of naturalization. The act 
which conferred on him the privileges of a citizen 
of the United States set forth that in receiving those 
privileges he renounced his character of a French- 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 153 

man. On the other hand, Maria Garcia, being 
the daughter of a Spaniard, who had obtained letters 
of naturalization in France, was, though born in 
Paris, really a Spanish subject. Thus, the facts of 
the case were simply as follows: two foreigners, 
the one an American and the other a Spaniard, 
had presented themselves to the French consul at 
New York to be married ; and the consul, supposing 
these two foreigners to be two French subjects had 
married them. 

It next became a question whether the French 
courts of law could adjudge between two foreigners; 
but to this objection it was urged that Monsieur and 
Madame Malibran had, subsequently to their mar- 
riage, both returned ; that the former had claimed 
his right as a citizen of France, and had thereby 
empowered the French tribunals to decide upon his 
case. Let us now leave the legal proceedings to 
pursue their tardy course, and return to Madame 
Malibran. 

At this period of anxiety and distress, Garcia 
relented; he became once more reconciled to his 
child. Maria's joy on this occasion is best told in 
a note I received from her, in answer to an invita- 
tion I had sent her to come and sing at my house. 

11 With the greatest pleasure I promise to come 
to you to-night. I am so happy ! Every thing has 
gone well with me since yesterday. This recon- 
ciliation is a good omen. I was sure a kind friend 



154 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

like you would rejoice Jo hear it. As soon as he 
comes in, I shall show him your dear note, and I am 
sure he will put his violin into his pocket, and attend 
you with the greatest pleasure. Adieu — I embrace 
you with all my heart. I shall try to be with you 
by nine, or even earlier. 

" Maria, 
" Que sus bellos y dulces carrillos 
besa con amor y respeto."* 

* Who kisses your sweet cheeks with love and respect. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 155 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

Kind mediation of General Mina. Madame Malibran's last 
performance in Paris. The notes of the dying swan. 
Madame Malibran's departure for Brussels. Her return to 
Paris in disguise. Her accouchement. Resolves not to sing 
again in public till she is married to De Beriot. An unex- 
pected visit from Lablache. Madame Malibran's sudden 
departure for Italy. Her passport. Her performance at 
Rome. Unfavourable reception. French romances. 

General Mina, a friend of Garcia's family, had 
greatly contributed, by his kind mediation, to bring 
about the reconciliation between the father and 
daughter. Madame Malibran felt most grateful to 
him. But her bosom was still a prey to a thousand 
conflicting pangs. She felt she was losing public 
favour in Paris. Her once enraptured audiences 
now listened to her mellifluous tones in almost frigid 
silence. The newspaper critics began to be severe 
and unjust. A spirit like Madame Malibran's could 
not brook this. Some weeks prior to the close of 
the season she announced her farewell benefit, 
which took place on the 8th of January. 



156 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

The opera she chose was Otello. On this memo- 
rable evening she sang in her very finest style, as if 
to make the Parisians remember her with the deeper 
regret. Alas ! they then heard her for the last time. 
She exerted herself to the utmost, and she was sub- 
lime. The audience were enthusiastic in their ap- 
plause. The gentlemen stood on the benches and 
cheered her; ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and 
threw garlands on the stage. With shouts of ad- 
miration were mingled expressions of regret for her 
departure. But her wings were already spread; 
her last notes, like the dying swan, rang in their 
ears. 

Next morning she started for Brussels, accompa- 
nied only by her waiting-maid. She remained but 
a few hours in that city. With the assistance of 
De Beriot she provided herself with a complete dis- 
guise, and a peruke of light hair rendered it quite 
impossible to recognise her. She then instantly re- 
turned to Paris, and took up her abode in a retired 
house, situated at the end of the Rue des Martyrs. 
There she remained concealed for nearly two 
months. As soon as she was sufficiently recovered 
from her accouchement to be enabled to travel, she 
once more set off for Brussels. 

In the company of the man she loved, she tried 
to forget her past sorrows, and to banish them by 
mingling in a continual round of amusements. 

On leaving the French metropolis, Maria Mali- 
bran had secretly vowed never again to sing in 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 157 

public till she was the wife of De Beriot. She had 
now accumulated 600,000 francs (24,000/.) having 
performed three seasons in Paris, and two in Lon- 
don. She was therefore sufficiently independent to 
be able to abide by her determination. 

Subsequent circumstances, however, tempted her 
to alter her resolve, as the sequel will show. About 
the middle of July, Lablache visited Brussels, on 
his way to Naples, and hearing by accident that 
Madame Malibran was in that city, he immediately 
called upon her, though he had only a few 7 hours to 
stay. It was eight in the evening when he made 
his visit ; Madame Malibran was delighted to see 
him, and pressed him to stay. 

" It is impossible," replied Lablache ; " I must re- 
tire to bed early, being compelled to start at day- 
break on my journey." 

" And why should not I go with you V 9 said she ; 
" I have no other engagement. Yes, I am resolved 
I'll go with you." 

" Then you must be very speedy, for most posi- 
tively I must be off by six o'clock." 

" Never mind — I'll be ready." 

Lablache, conceiving this to be a mere joke, 
laughingly wished her good-night and returned to 
his hotel. 

In the morning, about five o'clock, he was startled 
by hearing a post-carriage drive up to his door. 
He jumped up, thinking it was the conveyance he 
had ordered, and he felt annoyed at having over- 

vol. i. 14 



158 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

slept himself. He opened the window to look out, 
and Madame Malibran's voice greeted — u Come, 
Lablache, I'm ready and waiting for you." 

Lablache was thunderstruck ; he could scarcely 
believe his eyes. That a resolution should be thus 
taken so suddenly, and every arrangement made for 
so long a journey in so short a time, appeared like 
a dream. For a few moments he fancied he must 
be mistaken. In half an hour afterwards they were 
on their way to Italy. 

On arriving at the Italian frontier Madame Mali- 
bran recollected for the first time that she required 
a passport, which in the hurry of her departure she 
had quite forgotten. She was therefore obliged to 
remain behind whilst Lablache went forward, and 
having detailed the circumstances to the authorities 
at Milan, he obtained permission for her to enter 
Lombardy. 

She did not, however, stay long in Lombardy, 
but hastened on to Rome, where she made an en- 
gagement for four nights. She was, however, but 
indifferently received ; she had the bad taste to sing 
two French romances in the scene of the music les- 
son in the " Barbiere," which the Romans looked 
upon as an ill-timed pleasantry, and showed their 
sense of it. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 159 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

Madame Malibran's engagement at Naples. Jealousy of Ma- 
dame Ronzi de Begnis. Malibran's acting in the last scene 
of Desdemona. Donzelli. Madame Malibran's dtbul at 
the Fondo Theatre. Immense crowd on that occasion. 
She performs in the Cenerentola and the Gazza Ladra. 
Her interview with the King of Naples. Her extraor- 
dinary request to his Majesty. The King applauds her on 
her first appearance. Public peformers in Italy. Madame 
Malibran rides on horseback. Aquatic excursions in the 
Bay of Naples. Imprudent bathing. 

During her stay in Rome, Madame Malibran re- 
ceived information of the death of her father. She 
was so deeply afflicted by the event, that she kept 
her bed for several days. On this melancholy 
occasion she wrote a letter to Monsieur Viardot, 
expressive of her deep sorrow.* Whilst she was 
in Rome she signed an engagement with Barbaja, 
the director of the opera at Naples, for twelve 
nights performance in that city, on very advan- 

* See Appendix. 



160 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

tageous terms. To fulfil this contract she left Rome, 
but on her arrival in Naples she found that Madame 
Ronzi de Begnis was already in possession of all 
her parts at San Carlos, where she was a prodigious 
favourite, and refused to cede them to the new- 
comer. The consequence was, Madame Malibran 
made her first courtesy to a Neapolitan audience at 
the Fondo Theatre, on the 6th of August, in the 
character of Desdemona. At this theatre she per- 
formed ten of the twelve nights for which she had 
been engaged for San Carlos. 

Barbaja, who had the direction of both the esta- 
blishments, wisely calculated that as almost all the 
boxes at San Carlos were already let, Madame 
Malibran could add but little to his receipts there, 
whereas her appearance at the Fondo would be 
sure to draw large sums of money to his treasury. 

Here she obtained the most signal success. She 
introduced the aria from Donna Caritea in her first 
scene in Othello, and from that to the closing scene 
in the opera her acting and singing produced the 
most electrifying effect upon the audience. 

The Neapolitans had hitherto seen this scene 
tamely performed, or altogether omitted. Madame 
Malibran was the first who truly depicted to them 
the sufferings of Desdemona. In the dying scene, 
the manner in which she endeavoured to escape the 
fate which an instant be r ore she had invoked, was 
almost too forcible a representation of reality. 

I remember once a friend advising her not to 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN*. 161 

make Othello pursue her so long when he was 
about to kill her : her answer was, " You are right, 
it is not elegant, I admit ; but when once I fairly 
enter into my character, I never think of effects, 
but I imagine myself really the. person I represent. 
I can assure you that in the last scene of Desde- 
mona I often feel as if I were really about to be 
murdered, and act accordingly." 

Donzelli used to be much annoyed by Madame 
Malibran not determining beforehand how he was 
to seize her : she often gave him a regular chase. 
Though he was one of the best-tempered men in the 
world, I recollect seeing him one evening seriously 
angry. Desdemona had, according to custom, re- 
peatedly escaped from his grasp. In pursuing her 
he stumbled, and slightly wounded himself with 
the dagger he grasped. It was the only time I 
ever saw him in a passion. But to return to Ma- 
dame Malibran's debut at the Fondo, 

On that evening the crowd was so great that the 
Russian and Austrian ambassadors (Count Stackel- 
berg and Lebzellern) could not obtain places : as a 
great favour, they at last found room in the fourth 
tier opposite the grand lustre, which, out of respect 
to them, was drawn higher up, to enable them to 
catch a glimpse of the debutante. 

A few nights afterwards she played in the Cene- 
rentola. She was not much applauded, except in 
the variations of the finale, which were warmly 

14* 



162 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

admired. She therefore never again appeared in 
that op3ra. 

Neither were the Neapolitans altogether pleased 
with her in the Gazza Ladra. Her acting in the 
quintette scene was thought to partake too much of 
tragic dignity for a peasant, who, whatever her 
grief might be, could never have thus suddenly ac- 
quired an elegance beyond her humble lot. 

The rule of Naples is, that when an actress is 
about to make her debut, she waits on the king, and 
solicits the honour of his majesty's presence on her 
first appearance. In compliance with this regula- 
tion, Madame Malibran went to the palace, where 
she was received most graciously. 

On being introduced to the king, she said hesi- 
tatingly, " Sire, if it be agreeable to your majesty, 
I have come to request that your majesty will be 
graciously pleased not to appear at the theatre to- 
morrow evening," 

The king, not a little astonished, demanded the 
reason of a request so singular. 

" May it please your majesty, I have heard that 
it is the etiquette in Naples not to applaud in pre- 
sence of royalty: that is to say, unless you gra- 
ciously set the example." 

The king, perceiving that she was embarrassed, 
desired her to speak out. 

" Sire, as you are good enough to command me 
to speak, I will. The fact is, I am so much in the 
habit of being applauded the instant I appear on the 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 163 

stage, that I am sure, if I were received in silence, 
I couldn't sing a note." 

" Very well," said his majesty, " I will set the 
example. Fear not ; you shall be abundantly ap- 
plauded." 

Madame Malibran returned home highly satisfied 
by having thus secured powerful protection. In the 
evening, just before she made her appearance on 
the stage, she got between the side-scenes, where 
she might be seen from the royal box, and having 
caught the eye of the king, reminded him of his 
promise by clapping her hands. His majesty, 
pleased with her freedom and originality, failed not 
to be as good as his word, and the whole house 
loudly responded to the royal signal. 

On the 7th of September she performed at San 
Carlos, in the character of Rosina in the Barbiere, 
and Romeo in the third act of Romeo e Giulietta. 
She was rapturously admired in both these charac- 
ters, but the last mentioned opera was by no means 
popular. 

The Neapolitans are fond of musical novelty, and 
it was scarcely to be expected that they would 
listen with pleasure to an opera which had been 
performed every season during ten consecutive 
years. 

During the fetes of St. Januarius, (in September,) 
Madame Malibran took advantage of the temporary 
close of the theatre to visit Rome, where she played 
three times, and returned to finish her engagement 
at Naples. 



164 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

In Italy public performers are not so well received 
as in England and France. They are, it is true, 
highly admired, applauded, and asked to all the 
leading parties; but they are appreciated merely 
for their talents, and are never admitted to that 
equality, that intimacy which is sometimes even 
more gratifying than pecuniary reward. Madame 
Malibran felt this acutely; and she endeavoured, as 
much as possible, to shun those who affected to look 
down upon her. During her abode in Naples she 
sought, amidst the varied charms which nature has 
conferred on this favoured spot, to amuse herself, 
without risking the slights to which she was exposed 
in Neapolitan society. 

Her mornings were usually spent on horseback. 
She would gallop over the lovely plains of the sur- 
rounding country, or climb the rugged sides of 
Mount Vesuvius. At other times she would row 
in the Bay by moonlight. This was one of her 
favourite amusements ; for hours she would thus 
float on the waves, singing some of her favourite 
strains, delighted to hear the effect of her voice on 
the water. This, though imprudent, was not half 
so perilous to her health as her frequent habit of 
bathing at an hour when the sun's power is so great 
that few of the inhabitants of Naples will venture 
from their houses — and this, too, while she was in a 
delicate state of health. But she seldom looked 
forward to consequences, when the whim of the 
moment was to be gratified. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 165 



CHAPTER XXV. 

The King of Naples and Madame Ronzi de Begnis. Madame 
Malibran leaves Naples to fulfil an engagement at Bologna. 
Bolognese society. Gratifying reception of Madame Mali- 
bran. She is engaged to perform at Milan. Proposes to 
cancel her engagement. She secretly quits Milan, and 
proceeds to Brussels. Birth of her second child. 

Having played two or three nights beyond the 
number stipulated in her engagement, Madame Ma- 
libran demanded an increased salary, which the 
manager refusing, she signed an agreement with 
Azzolini, the director of the theatre at Bologna. On 
the whole, it may be said that Madame Malibran 
was not successful at Naples. This may be inferred 
from the following passage in a letter I received 
from her a few days before she quitted that city. 

" I have succeeded well here. I have every reason 
to believe the Neapolitans appreciate my talent, but 
they seldom applaud me. This w r ill never do : ap- 
plause to an actress is like warmth to life — it is 
a necessity. How can one sing without it ? You 



166 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

will perhaps ask, were they deaf? No. Did I sing 
badly ? Far from it. It is merely because I am too 
thin* 

" Do you understand me now ? No. So much 
the worse, then, for I'll give you no further expla- 
nation. * * * # .# # # 

" I still regret my absence from Paris ; but I will 
never return till I am married to De Beriot. Not 
that I fear the public, whom I have always found 
kind and indulgent, but on account of my friends 
and relations," &c. &c. 

Madame Malibran arrived about the middle of 
October at Bologna, and was received with the 
greatest approbation in " Romeo," " Otello," and 
" Tancredi." 

The society of Bologna was highly agreeable, 
and their reception of her most flattering. Of all 
the cities in Italy it is perhaps the most delightful. 
There the nobility and gentry mingle, without those 
petty jealousies which the presence of a court gives 
rise to. Hospitality and kindness are not dependent 
on the smiles of a prince, or the private likings or 
dislikings of some upstart ambassador, who, in a 
greater city, may choose to stamp with the hand of 
patronage or exclusion some temporary sojourner 
far better born than himself. In Bologna birth and 

* The meaning of this is, that the king had ceased to ap- 
plaud Madame Malibran, which she fancied arose from Ma- 
dame de Begnis being under his protection. Madame de 
Begnis was at that time very stout. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. / 167 

talent are the only two letters of recommendation ; 
possess either and you are sure to be welcome. 

But to return to my subject. Some of the scenes 
in the Capuletti were given in a style which perfectly 
entranced the audience ; while Madame Malibran's 
acting in the Sonnambula produced such an effect 
that she was called twice on the stage* after the 
curtain had fallen, to receive the congratulations of 
the audience. She was accompanied home from 
the theatre in a sort of triumph. Her residence was 
actually surrounded till daybreak by the enraptured 
Bolognese. 

After her engagement in that city she was en- 
gaged to perform at Milan, her first appearance 
being fixed for the 12th of December. She was 
now for the second time enceinte, and this cir- 
cumstance induced her to propose to the managers 
to cancel her engagement. This, however, they 
would not hear of; so, to get rid of their entreaties, 
and to escape from the fines which she would have 
been compelled to pay, Madame Malibran at once 
set out for Brussels, where she arrived in safety, 
after a most fatiguing journey. She gave birth to 
her second child in the month of January, 1833. 



168 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER- XXVI. 

Madame Malibran's alarming illness. Dr. Belloumini. First 
appearance of Madame Malibran on the English stage. 
Terms of her engagement at Drury Lane Theatre. Great 
attraction of her performance. Her musical tour through 
England. Neapolitan superstition. The cattiva sorte. 
Omission of the third act of Otello. Indifferent reception 
of Madame Malibran at San Carlos. A new opera by Pac- 
cini. Its failure. The funeral procession in Romeo e Giu- 
lietta. Failure of Coccia's new opera. Rural excursions, 
water parties, &c. Dangerous feat. Madame Malibran's 
performance of Norma at Naples. Impression produced 
by it. 

As soon as Madame Malibran was sufficiently re- 
covered, she started for London ; but, being attacked 
by a severe sore-throat, she was for some time in 
doubt whether she would be able to appear. How- 
ever, by the aid of Dr. Belloumini, she was in a few 
hours miraculously cured of this alarming illness, 
and was enabled in a few days to make her dtbut 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 169 

on the English stage. She was engaged for the 
season at Drury Lane theatre, at the rate of £150 
per night ! 

The interest she excited amply repaid the ma- 
nagers. All London flocked to hear her. Her ap- 
pearance in the Sonnambula, which was translated 
into English expressly for her, formed an epoch in 
the annals of the English drama, and to obtain a 
place in the theatre on the nights of her perform- 
ance was regarded as a prize. After the run of 
this piece she sang in a revived opera called " The 
Devil's Bridge," which was followed by a new 
opera by Chelard. She also sang at concerts, and 
during a temporary close of the theatre she made 
a profitable tour through England, receiving large 
sums for performing at musical festivals and benefit 
concerts. 

Having amassed a considerable sum, she again 
returned to Brussels, w T here she sang, not only in 
public, but twice at the palace. Many blamed the 
selection of her music on these occasions. It con- 
sisted of mere ballads, far too trivial to please those 
who came expecting to be astonished. But Madame 
Malibran w T as always capricious : such is the only 
excuse I can offer for her thus trifling with public 
favour. 

Renewed engagements demanded her presence in 
Italy. She again started for Naples on the 8th of 
November, 1833, and played there in Otello on the 
14th of the same month. But a peculiar circum- 

vol. i. 15 



170 MKM01RS AND LETTERS 

stance marred the success of her appearance on 
this occasion. The superstition of the Neapolitans is 
proverbial ; they entertain the most invincible hor- 
ror of the cattira sorte, and ascribe to that evil genius 
the most unbounded influence. 

It happened that the 14th of November was a 
grand gala day in Naples. Otello was announced 
for the debut of Madame Malibran ; but, in defe- 
rence to public feeling, it was deemed necessary to 
insert the following notice in the bill: "E per non 
funestar una cosi lieta ricorrenza, il terzo atto non 
sara rappresentato."* Consequently, Madame Ma- 
libran was deprived of the brilliant triumph she had 
a right to expect from her powerful acting in the 
dying scene. She subsequently performed in the 
Prova and the Gazza Ladra, but she was received 
with less enthusiasm than that which had greeted 
her at the Fondo. The subscribers to San Carlos 
felt a little pique against her for having, as they sup- 
posed, on her previous visit to Naples, preferred the 
second theatre to theirs. But this was a mistake : 
in performing at the Fondo Theatre, she merely ac- 
ceded to the arrangements made by the managers. 
Paccini had just composed a new opera expressly 
for her, entitled " Irene." It was played, for the 
first time, on the 30th of November, and was in- 
stantlv withdrawn. Madame Malibran sang in her 

* To banish evil augury on this happy occasion, the third 
act will not be performed. 



OF MADAME MALIJiRAX. 171 

very best style a fine duet*with her sister, Mademoi- 
selle Garcia, and exerted herself in every way, but 
in vain ; the critics condemned the opera to rise no 
more. 

In Semiramide and Romeo she was also received 
coldly. In the former opera she offended by in- 
troducing several compositions of Mereadanle and 
Vaccai, and in the latter the feelings of the 
audience were outraged by the funeral procession 
of Giulietta : they rose en masse, and hissed it off 
the stage. 

On the 19th of January, 1834, she again ap- 
peared in a new opera by Coocia, entitled "La 
Figlia del aria:" it only lived three nights. 

Weary of trying new characters and failing in 
them, Madame Malibran again resorted to her old 
favourite, " II Matrimonio Segreto," in which she 
played Fidalma. The Neapolitans, however, de- 
termined to be dissatisfied, condemned her for 
thus personating an old woman, and disapproved 
of her disfiguring her pretty face. 

To compensate for these professional disappoint- 
ments, Madame Malibran devoted herself during 
the day to every sort of rural enjoyment. Pic-nic 
water parties, and excursions to explore the beauties 
of the country in the environs of Naples, were her 
constant recreations. On one of these occasions, 
when returning by water from Pausillipo, she took 
it into her head, on arriving at the line of rocks 
near the Castel del Nuovo, to jump out of the boat, 



172 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

and to spring from rock tO rock, to gain the main- 
land. This feat was attended by no little danger, 
and she was several times up to her waist in water. 
One single false step might have been fatal to her; 
yet, in the careless mood of the moment, she 
laughed at the fears of her friends, and looked upon 
the perilous attempt as an amusing frolic. 

Her operatic triumph she reserved for the close 
of her engagement. On the 23d of February, 1834, 
she played Norma, and by her splendid acting pro- 
duced such a sensation, that the audience, as if to 
make atonement for former coldness, rose and 
cheered her for several minutes. 

For many days nothing was talked of but Mali- 
bran; the Neapolitans forgot all other singers in the 
admiration they felt for her. But Maria Malibran 
was not to be so easily won. They had offended 
her — deeply offended her ; she now had convinced 
them of their error, but determined to give them no 
further opportunity of undervaluing her merits. 
She quitted Naples on the 13th of March, leaving 
behind her a reputation for musical talent seldom 
equalled and never surpassed. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAPf. 173 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

Madame Malibran's appearance at Milan. Recollections of 
Pasta. The acting of Pasta and Malibran compared. Ma- 
dame Malibran revisits England, to fulfil her professional 
engagements. Returns to* Milan and Sinigaglia. The 
Chateau of d'Aucy le Franc. Surprise of the Marquis de 
Louvois. Illness of Madame Malibran. The Italian ballad- 
singer. Charity judiciously applied. 

On her arrival at Milan, Madame Malibran had 
to struggle against the impression which Pasta had 
left behind her in those same characters she was 
about to assume. For the first few evenings she 
found the Milanese faithful to their late favourite, 
but when she appeared in Norma she completely 
eclipsed her predecessor, and was universally pro- 
nounced to be the cantante par excellenza. On a 
comparison of Malibran and Pasta, the difference 
between these two gifted persons was obvious. 
Pasta was the perfection of art and study ; her every 
movement was correct and graceful ; but, after 
seeing her perform once, you might easily know on 

15* 



174 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

a future evening what you were to expect. Having 
once laid down the rules of her action, she never 
varied from them. She was always delightful, but 
always the same. 

Malibran, on the other hand, was a child of na- 
ture. Her gestures, her attitudes,- varied according 
to the feelings of the moment. She never laid down 
any studied points. She came upon the stage, en- 
tered heart and soul into the personation, and 
allowed her feelings entirely to guide her. 

The superior reception she met with at Milan, at 
a time when the public memory was vividly im- 
pressed with the performance of one of the finest 
actresses that ever trod the stage, is a convincing 
proof that nature, even in her wildest moods, is 
always more pleasing than the most masterly efforts 
of art. 

Having played twenty nights, Madame Malibran 
suddenly left Milan for the purpose of fulfilling her 
engagements in England, but not before she had 
signed an agreement with Duke Visconti (the di- 
rector of La Scala) to return there as soon as she 
was again free. 

In England she merely remained her promised 
time, and then returned to Italy, having agreed with 
Signor Azzolina to sing at Sinigaglia during the 
fair held in that town. She was to perform fifteen 
times between the 15th of July and 11th of August. 

In the course of her journey, as she was passing 
the Chateau d'Auey le Franc, she felt a wish to see 



OF MADAME MALIBRAtf. 175 

the park. It was only six o'clock in the morning, 
and she thought she might enter it unobserved. 
She accordingly alighted from her carriage with 
De Beriot. They were enjoying the stroll, when 
the proprietor of the domain (the Marquis de 
Louvois) met them. For a moment Madame Mali- 
bran endeavoured to shun him, and even attempted 
to run away ; but coming directly up to Monsieur 
de Beriot, whom he had formerly known, the Mar- 
quis begged to be introduced to his boyish com- 
panion, for Madame Malibran was, according to 
her frequent custom, disguised in male attire. She 
wore a pair of loose trousers and a blouse. The 
surprise of the Marquis may be easily imagined 
when he discovered who the supposed boy really 
was. The Marquis urgently pressed them to stay 
and spend a few days on his estate, but they were 
unable to accept his invitation. Madame Malibran 
in her turn invited the Marquis to come and visit 
her in Naples at the end of the year. 

Madame Malibran arrived in safety at Sinigaglia. 
During the latter part of the journey she seated her- 
self on the coachbox and drove, though the sun was 
scorchingly hot. Within a few minutes after she 
dismounted from the box, she plunged into the sea 
to bathe. This imprudence threw her into a violent 
fit of illness : she was seized with fever, and her 
voice became suddenly hoarse. Imagining that 
this was the mere effect of weakness, and de- 
termined not to yield to it, she drank a glass or two 



176 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

of champagne, and thereby made herself worse. 
A doctor was called in, and it w T as supposed she 
would be unable to appear for several weeks; the 
manager therefore selected a sort of secunda prima 
donna, who filled up the vacancy until our heroine 
became convalescent. Thanks to. a good constitu- 
tion, her illness was not of long duration. She made 
her debut in Norma, and filled the audience with 
delight and admiration. One evening, during her 
stay at Sinigaglia, she heard a beggar-woman 
singing beneath the window of her hotel. Being 
struck with the beauty of the woman's voice, she 
sent for her, and questioned her about her family, 
&c. Finding that it was not idleness, but real want, 
had driven the poor creature to her wandering way 
of life, Madame Malibran made provision for ena- 
bling the woman to receive a course of musical in- 
struction. She placed her under a good master, 
and paid for her musical education, till death de- 
prived the poor ballad-singer of her liberal pa- 
troness. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 177 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

Madame Malibran proceeds to Lucca. She is compelled to 
sing on the market-place of Sinigaglia. Curious scene. 
Admiration of the populace. Persiani's Ines de Castro. 
The Ducal court. Gallantry of the Duke and his nobles. 
New engagement at Milan and Naples. The finale in the 
Sonnambula. Extraordinary example of vocal execution. 
Madame Malibran's dislike to the character of Tancredi. 
The French hairdresser. 

On the 13th of August, Madame Malibran started 
for Lucca. In passing through the market-place of 
Sinigaglia, where the fair was held, her carriage 
was recognised by some of the people assembled, 
who instantly began to applaud her. At first they 
surrounded the vehicle, merely anxious to catch a 
glimpse of her, till some more hardy than the rest 
began to call on her to sing. This she refused to 
do, and begged of them to let her depart quietly: 
they, however, unharnessed the horses, and became 
authoritative in their demand. Finding they would 
not be pacified, or brought to any terms less than 
instant acquiescence, she called on De Beriot to 



178 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

accompany her, and taking out his violin, complied 
with their wishes. 

It was a curious scene. The vociferous accla- 
mations of the populace, at the conclusion of her 
song, so pleased Madame Malibran, that she often 
declared afterwards she never felt more proud than 
in the triumph she achieved over the stern feelings 
of this rude auditory. At Lucca she added new 
wreaths to her laurels by playing for the first 
time in an opera by Persiani, entitled " Ines de 
Castro." Her powerful talents rendered it highly 
successful. 

All the young nobles of the Ducal court were 
sighing at the feet of Malibran. One evening 
during her performance the Duke was taking ices 
in his box, one of which he sent by a courtier to 
the fair siren. But so jealous were all the others, 
and so envious were they of him who had been 
chosen to fulfil the mission, that on his return the 
Duke broke the cup which had contained the ice 
into twenty pieces, and gave to each a fragment of 
the china which had been blessed by the touch of 
the idol. 

Her engagement with the Duke Visconti called 
her back to Milan. There she was received w r ith 
rapture. Every night wreaths of flowers, gold and 
silver bouquets, lines of poetry, and purses — in fact, 
every thing that generosity and admiration could 
suggest, were thrown to her on the stage. She was 
frequently obliged to sing the same piece no less 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 179 

than three times over. The Milanese looked upon 
her as something superhuman. 

Triumphs like these repay the artist for those toils 
and annoyances which are only the price at which 
such distinction can be earned. 

After playing thirteen nights on very liberal terms, 
Madame Malibran proceeded to Naples, where she 
had entered into an agreement to play forty nights 
at the rate of 2,000 francs for each performance, 
besides two free benefits. 

She reappeared for the third time at Naples, on 
the 11th of November, at the Fondo Theatre. She 
selected the Sonnambula for her debut The result 
proved that she could not have made a better choice. 
The audience were enraptured. Her peculiar mode 
of giving the passage, 

" lo non son rea," 

in the first act, completely overpowered the feelings 
of all who heard her. 

But who can describe the electrifying effect she 
produced in the finale ? 

" Ah ! non guinge uman pensiero 
Al contento ond 'io sou piena." 

By an ingenious transposition of the original phrase 
of Bellini, her voice descended to the tenor G ; then 
by a rapid transition she struck the G above the 
treble stave, an interval of two octaves. 



180 



MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



The phrase, as Bellini wrote it, is as follows. 

- - vi-amo, ci for - - miamo un ciel d'a- 



- - - vi-amo, ci ior - - miamo un ciel d'a- 



mor, Ah nel-la ter ra in cui vi- 



via 



ci for - - mia 



» r IJ 1 I » — \ 11 i 1 I r f I ' 



, : ^- 



mo un ciel d'a - - mor. 

Madame Malibran sang it thus : — 



etc. 






m 



vi-amo, 



ci for-mia-mo 



a— 

un ciel d'a- 



Plpg^^^i^ 



mor, Ah nel-la ter ra in cui vi- 



jt #_«^czji > i 

— g5**^ :s si3 = 



N is 



PBS 



3~ 



33 



3=J 



mo, ci, for-mia 






ciel 



d'a 



etc. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 181 

I have here transcribed the notes ; but none can 
conceive the effect they produced, save those who 
have heard them sung by Malibran. I will not at- 
tempt to detail the numerous beauties which she 
infused into this charming opera. Suffice it to say, 
none ever did or ever will equal her in it. 

On the 19th she played in Tancredi at San Car- 
los. Her reception was indifferent. The part was 
never a favourite with her. She often declared that 
Tancredi was an insignificant being, with whose 
feelings she had no sympathy. On the 4th of De- 
cember she appeared in Norma, and was highly 
applauded. 

In every place in which Madame Malibran per- 
formed, she left behind her some memorial of her 
charitable disposition. She either sought out and 
relieved some cases of private distress, presented 
a donation to some public institution, or gave a con- 
cert for the benefit of the poor. 

There resided in Naples at this time a poor French 
hairdresser, who vainly struggled to obtain a scanty 
livelihood. Madame Malibran sent for him, and de- 
sired him to attend daily to dress her hair, for which 
she paid him most extravagantly. As soon as he 
was gone, she would undo all his curling and plait- 
ing, and again go through the operation of having 
her hair dressed by another coiffeur. Some friends 
remarked that she gave herself a great deal of use- 
less trouble, and suggested that as she only employed 

vol. i. 16 



182 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

the poor hairdresser for charity, it would be better 
to give him the money for doing nothing. 

" O no !" replied she, " he is poor but proud ; he 
thinks he earns the money, and consequently feels 
no humiliation in taking it. To receive reward is 
gratifying ; to accept charity is degrading. Be- 
sides, when he hears my head-dress praised, he be- 
lieves it to be his handiwork, and feels proud of 
his talents. To confer such happiness is worth any 
sacrifice." 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 183 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

Madame Malibran's friendship sought by persons of high rank. 
The pseudo-aristocracy of Naples. An anecdote. A gipsy 
party. The villa of the Prince of Capua. Forbidden ground. 
Warning disregarded. The Sbirri. Madame Malibran's 
expedient. 

The Marquis de Louvois had not failed, accord- 
ing to his promise, to visit Naples. He became the 
most intimate friend of Madame Malibran, who 
thoroughly appreciated his superior merits ; whilst 
he, delighted with her unaffected frankness and ex- 
cellent feeling, cordially returned her friendship, and 
did every thing in his power to secure it. 

The Marchioness de Lagrange, and the Mar- 
chioness de la Ferte, two French ladies of rank, 
likewise offered her their friendship. This was 
highly gratifying to Madame Malibran, and it amply 
atoned for the slights she received from the pseudo- 
aristocracy of Naples. An idea of their exclusive- 
ness may be deduced from the following anecdote 
which occurred during this period. 



184 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

Madame de L gave a grand masquerade; 

and desirous to make it as attractive as possible, 
she wished to secure the presence of Madame 
Malibran. But as distinction of classes was strictly 
preserved in " La Bella Napoli," the lady thought it 
would be better to separate cantatrice from the rest 
of the company, and rank her as a professional per- 
son. To give her an opportunity of displaying her 
talents, she erected a tent in the middle of the 
grounds, in which Maria was to preside as a gipsy, 
and occasionally to sing. This plan was, however, 
frustrated ; several of the leading families intimated 
to the lady " that if they were to associate with an 
actress they should feel degraded, and consequently 
declined attending the party." So poor Madame 

de L was forced to give up the presence of her 

favourite ; but, from a praiseworthy feeling of deli- 
cacy, she cautiously concealed from Madame Mali- 
bran the reasons which had induced her to alter the 
arrangements for her party. 

The ingenuity of Madame Malibran was put to 
the test in Naples. Having no female servant with 
her, she was compelled to arrange and lay out all 
her theatrical dresses. Notwithstanding this, she 
had plenty of time to devote to amusement. 

One day, when at Castellmare, she formed a 
gipsy party. The company, who were mounted on 
donkeys, climbed the verdant rocks, and penetra- 
ted the delightful thickets which deck this favoured 
spot. On approaching the domain of the Prince of 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 185 

Capua, they saw posted up a notice forbidding any 
one, under the severest penalty, to intrude on the 
sacred boundaries of the Villa Cassina. The merry 
party, led by Madame Malibran, passed this noti- 
fication without observing it. They had already 
trespassed on the forbidden ground, when a band 
of armed sbirri pounced upon them, threatening 
them with all the terrors of the Prince's displeasure. 
Entreaty was vain, — bribery was equally unavail- 
ing, — threats were laughed at, — and resistance put 
out of the question by numerical superiority. In 
this terrific dilemma, Maria bethought herself of an 
expedient likely to extricate herself and her friends; 
namely, to try the power of that voice to whose 
enchanting spell thousands had bowed. She in- 
stantly began to sing one of her finest morceaux. 
The sbirri appeared transfixed with amazement. 
In another moment their caps were doffed, and the 
party were respectfully allowed to depart. 

Like the head of Cerberus, which bowed to 
the lyre of Orpheus, these men were moved by 
the power of Malibran's captivating talents, and 
owned a sway as yet unknown to their rough 
natures. 

16* 



186 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XXX. 

Road from Naples to Vomero. The Carmelite convent. Ma- 
dame Malibran singing the Tarantella. The funeral proces- 
sion. Madame Malibran and the priest. Hospitality of the 
monks. 

Leaving Naples in the direction of the northeast, 
the traveller reaches the road to Vomero. The 
road itself is so bad that few would be induced to 
traverse it, were it not for the picturesque views it 
presents. 

The smiling scenery of Vomero, of the Villa Bel- 
videra, and further on, the famous fort of St. Eluce, 
by turns claim admiration. The distant lake of 
Agnano, the lovely environs of Puzzoli, next pre- 
sent themselves : and further on is seen the summit 
of a sharp rock, or rather mountain, on which is 
situated a convent of Carmelites. These holy men 
live removed, as it were, from the world, though in 
the neighbourhood of the world's gayest city. 

On the little height in front of the convent, having 
on its right Vesuvius, and on its left the old crater 



OF MADAME MALIBRAX. 187 

of Solfatara, commanding a view of the lovely Bay 
of Naples, sat Malibran one fine autumnal day. 
surrounded by a band of light-hearted friends. At 
intervals they danced the merry tarantella, or, 
accompanied by castanets, they sang the favourite 
chorus, 

La, la, ra, la, la, ra, la, au. 

After which Maria would chime in, 

Giu la luna in mezzo al mara 
Mamma m'a, si saltera 
L'ora e bella per danzare 
Chi e in amor non manchera. 

And again the chorus was repeated, 

La, la, ra, la, la, ra, la, au. 

During this scene a sudden sound was heard, a sort 
of gloomy echo, which in an instant chilled every 
breast. Another instant and the enigma was solved. 
A procession of monks was seen to issue from the 
convent, chanting the De Profundis; they were 
bearing a brother's corpse to the grave. In a mo- 
ment all was hushed : the superstitious Neapolitans 
in a moment stayed their mirth, and shuddered at 
what they considered to be a fearful omen. Ma- 
dame Malibran alone evinced no sign of fear. She 
walked towards the convent. Over the door were 
inscribed the words, " Scomunica per le donne." 
She read this notice, vet she boldlv ran£ the bell. A 
monk habited in white came out and inquired what 
she wanted. 



1SS MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

11 Reverend father/ 1 said she, " can I be permitted 
to see the convent [•' 

"Impossible, signora; you see, by the interdiction 
inscribed over our gate, that females are forbidden 
to enter. Be kind enough, therefore, to withdraw. 
Ere you do so, however, let me prove to you we are 
not inhospitable. 11 

In a few minutes more a repast of fruit was sent 
out to Madame Malibran and her party. When 
they had partaken of it, and seemed to wish for no 
more, the priest again appeared. " Begone now," 
said he, " begone, and pray for us." 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 189 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

The new opera of Amelia. Madame Malibran dancing the 
mazurka. Her love of dancing. Her deficiency in that 
accomplishment. Inez de Castro. Killing pigs in the 
streets of Naples. Madame Malibran meets with an acci- 
dent. Her faith in the homoeopathic system. Her per- 
formance of Inez de Castro on the night after her accident. 
Her remark to Mr. Young, the actor. A curious reply. 

When the King of Naples was not present at the 
Opera, the audience warmly applauded Madame 
Malibran, and thus repaid her for the cold silence 
with which in the presence of royalty they received 
her. She now began to display her comic humour 
in several buffa parts, and she played them beyond 
all praise. 

On the 4th of December she played in a new 
opera, entitled Amelia, composed by Rossi. The 
music was really very tolerable, and the piece by 
no means wanting in interest, but nevertheless it 
failed. In this opera Madame Malibran, by an ex- 
traordinary whim, undertook to dance the mazurka. 



190 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

She never excelled in dancing, although she was 
excessively fond of it. Her native grace seemed 
to forsake her whenever she attempted to dance. 
Still she seized every possible opportunity of dancing 
on the stage. In this instance Madame Malibran's 
mazurka certainly contributed 'to the failure of 
Amelia. 

In Inez de Castro, on the 28th of January, she 
regained her laurels, and obliterated the failure of 
the preceding month. In the character of Per- 
sian's heroine, she was so touching, so deeply 
tragic in the death scene, that several females were 
carried out of the theatre fainting. 

Her success on this occasion was equalled only 
by that which she had achieved at Bologna. She 
was well supported by Duprez. 

She was already announced to appear on the fol- 
lowing evening in a new opera by Paccini, entitled 
the Colonello, with every prospect of success, when 
a sudden accident prevented her. 

On the last Sunday of the Carnival, during the 
festival of the confetti, she was driving along the 
Strado Toledo, on her way to dine with the 
Marchioness Lagrange. Her coachman was en- 
deavouring to pass a narrow and crowded point at 
the end of the Villa Reale, when a pig escaped from 
the hands of a man who was about to kill him.* 

* In Naples they frequently kill pigs in the public streets, 
where these animals are allowed to go at large. They roam 
about until such time as their owners may think proper to 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 191 

The animal rushed between the legs of Madame 
Malibran's horses, which instantly took fright, and 
set off at full speed. They ran for a considerable 
distance ere they could be stopped in their progress. 
In the mean time poor Maria was flung from the 
carriage, (an open caleche,) and had her w ? rist dis- 
located. By good fortune a medical professor 
(Dr. H.) happened to be passing ; he had her in- 
stantly raised up and carried into the nearest house, 
where he set her wrist, and having bandaged it 
properly, had her conveyed to the residence of 
Madame de Lagrange. 

The operation was very painful, but during her 
sufferings Madame Malibran thought only of the 
grief which the accident would cause to De Beriot. 

As Dr. H was quitting the room, she called 

him back. " Do not let Charles know how much I 
suffer," said she, " for I know how deeply it will 
grieve him." 

The king next day sent his surgeon to Madame 
Malibran, but she refused to be bled according to 
his desire, declining any medical treatment, except 
that which was conformable with the homoeopathic 
system, in which she had great faith. Her arm 
was much swollen, and she was advised to keep her 
bed. This, however, she refused to do, and laughed 

kill them. They then go out and perform the work of 
slaughter, wherever they may chance to find the animal. A 
fire is lighted on the spot, and the carcass is prepared for the 
retail vender. 



192 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

at the idea. She had a case made to keep it in 
one position, and she played in Inez de Castro, the 
night after the accident, with such admirable ad- 
dress, that many refused to believe she could really 
have been so seriously injured. 

Some short time after this, she said to Mr. Young, 
(the celebrated English tragedian,) " My dear friend, 
I have learned a good lesson by this. I find that 
hitherto I must have indulged in too much action in 
the part. I was compelled, in consequence of my 
accident, to be almost immovable, and yet I never 
received more applause. 1*11 act more quietly for 
the future." 

One day an intimate friend accused her of being 
generally too tame in the opening scenes of her 
characters ; her reply was curious. " I look upon 
the heads in the pit as one great mass of wax 
candles : if I were to light them up all at once, they 
would waste and soon burn out. But, by lighting 
gradually, I obtain in time a brilliant illumination. 
My system is to light up the public by degrees." 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 193 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

French society at Naples. Enlivening influence of Madame 
Malibran's presence. Her departure from Naples. Fare- 
well of her admirers. Arozzo. Madame Malibran's visit 
to the Lunatic Asylum. Effect of her singing on a lunatic. 
Her reception at Venice. The lottery. Lucky numbers. 
Lithographic prints. Madame Malibran's gondola. 

In the small circle of French persons of distinc- 
tion assembled at Naples, Madame Malibran was 
received with open arms. Her gratitude for their 
kind reception of her was evinced by devoting her 
talents to their amusement whenever it was in her 
power. She would act parts in charades, (several 
of which were written for her by the Marquis de 
Louvois,) and was ever ready to sing when called 
on. In short, she was the very soul of society 
wherever she visited, enlivening by her brilliancy 
and wit the dullest parties, diffusing mirth and good 
humour wherever she appeared. 

Madame Malibran at length bade adieu — alas! an 
vol. i. 17 



194 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

eternal adieu — to Naples. She left that city on Ash 
Wednesday, 1835. 

On her departure she was followed to the suburbs 
of the city by an immense concourse of admirers, 
amongst whom some of the first persons in Naples 
might be found, shouting out their regrets at losing 
her, and their sincere hopes that triumph and pros- 
perity might attend her. 

Her carriage broke down at Arozzo. Finding 
that it could not possibly be repaired in less than 
two hours, she determined to take a view of the 
town, and among other places she visited the lunatic 
asylum. She went straight to it, accompanied by 
some friends who were travelling with her. 

The director of the establishment explained to 
Madame Malibran the various cases of insanity, 
and the several modes of treatment; he stated that 
the general system was to humour and gratify 
every wish of the patients as far as possible. 

" Do you think any of them would like to hear me 
sing?" inquired Madame Malibran. 

" We have here," replied the director, " a young 
man whose madness is caused by having fallen in 
love with the queen. He is passionately fond of 
music, and I should certainly like to see the effect 
your singing would have on him. But I cannot 
venture to ask you to sing, since he begins to rave 
as soon as he sees a female." 

" O ! as to that," replied she, " I shall pass for a 
little boy, (she was dressed in male attire.) Let me 
see him." 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 195 

Her wish was complied with. She entered the 
apartment in which the young man was confined. 
For a moment he gazed on her with evident curi- 
osity. Madame Malibran approached a piano 
which stood in the chamber, and ran her fingers 
over the keys. In an instant the poor maniac was 
all attention. She sang the romance in Otello. " Is 
this divine?" exclaimed the young man, and he ap- 
peared violently excited. "No," he added, "this 
is the voice of a woman :" then bursting into tears, 
he threw himself into a chair and sobbed aloud. 
The director led Madame Malibran away, express- 
ing his thanks for her kindness, and his firm convic- 
tion of the salutary effect it had produced on the 
mind of the unfortunate young man. 

Several of the lunatics wished in their turn to 
sing to Madame Malibran, who very patiently 
listened to them, although the discordance of their 
tones was indescribably disagreeable. 

Somewhat depressed in spirits by this visit, she 
left the establishment, after presenting a handsome 
donation for the patients. She continued her route 
by the way of Rome to Venice, where she had made 
an engagement to play six times for fifteen hundred 
francs (£600.) 

Her reception was brilliant; but it is perhaps 
better to let her describe it in her own original man- 
ner. The following is a letter which she addressed 
to a friend on this occasion : 



196 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

" 28th March, 1835. 



" Dear P , 

" Don't scold me — do not believe me capable of 
forgetting you. The truth is, the emperor (whom 
may God have in his holy keeping !) has quite upset 
us, holding us all in hot water until he should decide 
on permitting us to appear on the 24th. As soon 
as this was fixed, we started for Venice. To de- 
scribe to you the highly raised hopes of the Veni- 
tians would be too long; suffice it to say, my fame 
had reached them long ere I arrived, and they were 
all on the tiptoe of expectation. 

" I must relate to you an incident that occurred 
previous to our arrival. 

" You are aware that they have a lottery in this 
city, and that, as in Naples, the lower orders are 
very fond of trying their luck in it. Like true 
Italians, full of every kind of superstition, my com- 
ing appeared to them a happy omen ; they therefore 
combined the four numbers connected with my ap- 
pearance. Ten, the cantatrice ; # seventeen, the day 
of the month on which I was first announced ; 
twenty-four, the date of my debut; and six, the 
number of my performances. Would you believe 
it? the four numbers turned up prizes, and the very 
lowest gainer won nine hundred Austrian livres. 

" From this circumstance my arrival was regard- 
ed as a happy augury to the city of Venice, and I 

* There being ten letters in that word. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAIV. 197 

am followed about and cheered by the people ac- 
cordingly. My picture is in every shop window, 
with lithographic sketches of my accident at Naples. 
Thank heaven, the pigs don't run about the streets 
here. 

" I have made a great sensation in Venice by the 
taste with which I have fitted up my gondola ; it is 
painted gray on the outside, red inside, with gold 
ornaments ; it has blue curtains with rich tassels. 
My rowers are dressed in scarlet jackets, with black 
velvet collars, and cuffs, straw hats, with black 
ribands twisted round them,. and blue cloth trousers. 
From this you may guess that wherever I go I am 
instantly recognised by my gondola. 

" The fact is, I should fancy myself buried alive, 
if I ventured to enter one of those hearse-like black 
gondolas ; I could not bring myself to do so. I was 
unable to appear on the 24th, as first proposed, in 
consequence of its falling on a very strict festival 
day. 1 therefore made my debut in Otello on the 
26th. To describe to vou the enthusiasm with 
which I was received would be impossible." 



17* 



198 MEMOIRS A1VD LETTERS 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

Madame Malibran's talent for sketching and for musical com- 
position. Arrival of the Marquis de Louvois at Florence. 
Interest excited by Madame Malibran at Venice. The mys- 
terious serenader. Madame Malibran's marriage declared 
null and void. 

Madame Malibran, as I have already stated, 
possessed a singular talent for caricaturing ; but 
she never exercised this talent in a way to wound 
the feelings of others. Her sketches were incompa- 
rably droll, but not ill-natured. Her great amusement 
was to sketch the profiles of her operatic colleagues 
during the time of her performance, and this ge- 
nerally when she was waiting between the side- 
scenes to come on. She frequently took caricature 
likenesses of all the performers in the green-room, 
and showed them to the parties themselves, who, 
knowing that no malice was intended, would be 
heartily amused. 

Her facility in musical composition was not less 
remarkable. During rehearsal, whilst the hammer- 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 199 

ing of the stage carpenters, the voices of the per- 
formers, and the din of the orchestra, were resound- 
ing in her ears, I have seen her, with a sheet of 
music and a pencil, busily at work, noting down, 
without labour or study, airs worthy of a first-rate 
composer. 

When the Marquis de Louvois arrived at Florence, 
he found Madame Malibran engaged at the re- 
hearsal of Norma. After some conversation, he 
alluded to an air which she had promised to write 
for him, and jokingly reproached her for having for- 
gotten it. 

" I confess," replied she, " that I had forgotten it : 
but no matter; it is not too late to remedy my fault. 
I will trouble you, sir, for a leaf of music paper," 
continued she, addressing the leader of the orches- 
tra, " and a pencil." 

They were handed to her: in a quarter of an 
hour, notwithstanding the noise and confusion which 
surrounded her, she composed a very pretty romance. 

In Venice she was constantly followed by a crow 7 d. 
If she entered a shop, hundreds instantly surrounded 
it. If she took an airing in her gondola, (which, as 
I have before remarked, was easily distinguishable,) 
a little flotilla convoyed her as she glided along. The 
quays were lined by persons anxious to see her. Her 
landing was watched for, and her progress to her 
abode was a sort of triumphal procession. 

One evening, after playing in the Sonnambula, 



200 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

Madame Malibran was tempted by the fineness of 
the night to sit for some time enjoying the breeze in 
her balcony, which overlooked the canal. She had 
been seated there for some time, repeating, unheard 
as she supposed, some passages of the songs she had 
just been singing at the theatre,* when a gondola 
suddenly stopped beneath her balcony. The next 
moment, a clear, finely-toned male voice, taking up 
the air she had just finished, repeated it, but accom- 
panied with words calculated to hurt her feelings, 
and which conveyed censure upon her private con- 
duct. 

Between each verse the mysterious and insulting 
serenader made a solemn pause, and then recom- 
menced his strain. 

It was now midnight ; no one but the mysterious 
singer was near, and Maria felt a superstitious awe 
creeping over her. But, determined to overcome it, 
she mustered all her courage, and instantly sang to 
the same air a few extempore lines, pointing out the 
impropriety of thus assailing an unoffending female, 
and begging him to accept a few pieces of silver. 
She wrapped the money in a piece of paper, and 
having set light to it, that it might not be lost in the 
dark, she threw it down to the gondolier. He care- 
fully picked it up, seized his oars, and in another 
instant was out of sight. 

On the 6th of March the Tribunal de Premiere 
Instance in Paris pronounced the marriage of Maria 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 201 

Garcia with M. Malibran to be null and void. 
The husband had rendered himself subject to the 
laws of France by taking out his rights of citizen- 
ship during his last visit to that country.* This 
decision once more restored Maria to happiness. 

* See Apendix. 



202 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

Embarrassment of Signor Gallo. Madame Malibran's per- 
formance for his benefit. Crowded theatre. The divina 
cantatrice. Herculean labour. Drilling an orchestra. A 
panic. The white doves. Illuminated gondolas. The cup 
of wine. 

Maria, having finished her engagement at the 
Fenice theatre, was preparing to quit Venice with 
a light heart, when she learned that Signor Gallo, 
the manager of the secondary theatre in that city, 
was about to become a bankrupt. He was a 
worthy man ; but having met with an unusual series 
of misfortunes, he was on the eve of failing. The 
moment she heard of his embarrassments, Madame 
Malibran determined on exerting herself to save 
him. That same evening it was publicly announced 
that " Madame Malibran would appear in the Son- 
nambula, at the second theatre, for the benefit of 
Signor Gallo." 

Every place in the house that could be secured 
was instantly taken. The idea of once again hear- 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 203 

ing the divina cantatrice, for so they had surnamed 
her, made every one flock to the long-deserted 
theatre ; and lucky were they considered who could 
obtain the chance of once more hearing her. 

At the rising of the curtain, the house was cram- 
med to suffocation. Hundreds were waiting out- 
side, clamorously, but vainly demanding to be 
admitted ; and many a gondola was seen gliding 
unwillingly away, whose disappointed occupants 
had been turned from the door. 

Meanwhile Madame Malibran's task was almost 
a Herculean labour. The company, as might be 
expected under such circumstances, was most ineffi- 
cient, and the orchestra still worse than the singers. 

In vain had Madame Malibran solicited the band 
of the Fenice to come to her assistance, and second 
her exertions. They all declined, and the labour of 
drilling the bad orchestra devolved wholly on her- 
self. 

At length the important evening came, and for a 
few moments all went on well. But no sooner did 
the tenor singer, who represented Elvino, advance 
to take his part in the duo, Son geloso del zefiro er- 
rante, than he was seized with a sudden panic, and 
totally forgot his part. Murmurs and pleasantries 
resounded through the pit; but Madame Malibran, 
without being in the least disconcerted, said in a 
low tone of voice to her trembling companion, " Sois 
tranquille, je vais t'aider;" and taking up the tenor 
part, she blended it w T ith her own, singing passages 



204 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

of each alternately, making of the whole a beauti- 
fully arranged air. The tenor singer by this means 
had time to recover himself, and was enabled to 
take up his part at the close of the duo. 

The audience, charmed by this example of talent 
and presence of mind, expressed their admiration 
by a tumultuous burst of applause. 

When Madame Malibran arrived at the last air, 
the gentlemen in the pit mounted on the benches 
and waved their handkerchiefs, whilst the ladies 
threw wreaths and nosegays on the stage. With 
eyes streaming with tears, she advanced to the 
front of the stage to return thanks. At that mo- 
ment two beautiful white doves flew from one of 
the upper boxes, and fluttered several times round 
the head of the prima donna. 

Meanwhile the populace on the outside of the 
theatre were waiting patiently with a flotilla of 
illuminated gondolas to convey Madame Malibran 
home in procession ; but she was so overcome with 
agitation and fatigue, that she slipped away in a 
hired boat. A vast multitude of people collected 
around her well-known bark, anxiously expecting 
her appearance; but as soon as her departure was 
discovered, they hurried after her, their torches 
shooting along the surface of the water like meteors. 
Many of the gondolas overtook Madame Malibran's 
boat ; and the consequence was, that when the fair 
siren came to her place of landing, a joyous crowd 
were already assembled there, who received her 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 205 

with the demonstrations of honour due to a queen, 
and greeted her on her passage from the quay to 
her place of residence. 

She had no sooner entered her house than a de- 
putation of gondoliers requested leave to address 
her. They were admitted. The spokesman of the 
group stepped forward, and presenting a gilt cup 
filled with wine, he begged her to touch it with her 
lips, ere they carried it out to their comrades who 
were assembled beneath her windows. Madame 
Malibran instantly complied with this request, and 
stepping into the balcony, she raised the cup of wine 
to her lips. The light of the numerous torches fell 
full on the manly and sunburnt countenances of the 
gondoliers, and produced a most picturesque and 
striking effect. 

The deputation had now returned to their 
brethren, bearing the cup, and each gondolier in his 
turn raised it to his lips, and drank the health of 
Maria Malibran. 



vol, i. 18 



206 MEMOIRS AND LETTEKS 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

Madame Malibran's remarks on herself. Visit to Brussels. 
Engagement at Drury Lane. Salary. Letter from M. de 
Beriot. Excessive fatigue endured by Madame Malibran 
during her London engagement. Her performance of Fi- 
delio. Grisi in the Puritani. Madame Malibran's engage- 
ment at Lucca. The cholera in Italy. Relics. 

Madame Malibran was by no means insensible 
to these marks of admiration and regard ; but 
though elated at her success, and flattered by 
these triumphs, yet they never inspired her with 
feelings of self-importance or pride. I have fre- 
quently heard her say, when speaking of herself, 
" The severe manner in which I was brought up to 
a certain extent soured my temper ; and I should 
have continued petulant and ill-humoured, but for 
the kindness I have experienced from my friends. 
That kindness has soothed my feelings, and filled 
me with gratitude." 

After spending a few days in Brussels, she again 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 207 

visited London, where she had concluded an 
engagement with Bunn (the manager of Drury 
Lane) to perform thirty nights, between the first 
of May and the 30th of July. For these perfor- 
mances she was to receive £3,775. She played 
in the Sonnambula, in Fidelio, and in the Devil's 
Bridge. 

The English are not an enthusiastic nation, but 
Madame Malibran had no reason to complain of 
their coldness to her. They applauded her in the 
most flattering manner, and never failed to encore 
her in the last air of the second act of Fidelio. 

Madame Malibran was still unmarried, and con- 
sequently ill at ease. The following letter from De 
Beriot to a friend will best describe her situation. 

" I much fear the Lucca affair will not be settled 
without our being forced to visit that city. Our 
impressario has not yet been able to come to any 
settlement with the government ; we shall, therefore, 
be unable to start for Italy for some weeks. We 
have some thoughts of accepting terms at Covent 
Garden for the month of July. This is the best 
musical season ever known in London. We have 
concerts almost daily. The theatres are making 
a great deal of money, particularly Drury Lane. 
When Maria appears in the Sonnambula, the house 
is always crowded. She is quite well, notwithstand- 
ing the extraordinary fatigue she undergoes. The 
following is a fair average of her daily labour : at 



208 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

nine, an hour's practice with the piano ; at ten, re- 
hearsal at the theatre ; concerts from one till four ; 
opera from seven till ten at night, and concerts again 
till daybreak ; then poor Maria, wearied with her 
toil, snatches a few hours' repose ere she renews 
her drudgery on the succeeding day. 

"All this is against my wish, but what can I 
do? She is, as you know, indefatigable, and re- 
fuses nothing. During her absence I frequently 
refuse offers in her name. If I allowed her to fol- 
low her own bent, she would certainly kill herself 
by fatigue. 

" Fortunately she has got through the most 
harassing portion of her engagement. She played 
last night Fidelio, for the first time in English, with 
the most complete success. They made her give 
the last scene twice. Grisi has also been very suc- 
cessful in the Puritani. She and Maria are great 
friends, and constantly sing duets together at pri- 
vate parties. Since the days of Sontag, nothing 
so perfect has been heard. They are to sing the 
duet in Semiramide at our concert on the 20th of 
June ; and as it will be the first time they have 
been heard together in public, I shall take care to 
announce it in a bill three yards long, containing 
letters of at least a foot in height. I reckon on a 
crowded room. By letters from Paris I am in- 
formed that we must yet wait ten months longer 
ere we can be married ; that being the period pre- 
scribed by law for widows to remain single. This 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 209 

annoys us much ; but even if we should get over 
this obstacle, there is still another which presents 
itself; we have neither of us a domicile in Paris, 
which it is necessary to have previously to our 
marriage. We must be united in France, and 
act strictly according to French law, the divorce 
having been pronounced according to the French 
code," &c. 

No sooner had Madame Malibran completed her 
engagement in London than she started once more 
for Italy, having entered into terms with Azzolini to 
perform at Lucca. There, however, she was des- 
tined to meet with disappointment. The cholera 
had just broken out in that part of Italy, the country 
was in a state of dire alarm, and not even the opera 
was thought of. 

Once or twice, it is true, the charms of the fair 
warbler overcame the public fear. The theatre 
was frequented, and the inhabitants of Lucca once 
again listened with rapturous joy to their favourite. 
On one occasion a party of young men (many of 
whom were of the highest birth) unharnessed her 
horses, and dragged her in triumph to her resi- 
dence, where they begged from her her bouquet, 
her gloves, her handkerchief, and her shawl, to be 
distributed as relics amongst them. On presenting 
herself at the window, she was greeted with loud 
cheers, whilst the military band of the garrison per- 

18* 



210 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

formed a new piece of music composed in honour 
of her arrival. 

Madame Malibran left Lucca amid the regret of 
the inhabitants, who expressed sincere hopes that she 
might escape the ravages of the unsparing malady, 
which for a time stalked with demon strides through 
" sunny Italy." 



OF MADAME MALIBRA1V. 211 



CHAPTER XXXVL 

The cholera at Leghorn. Madame Malibran's letter to the 
Marquis de Louvois. Sanatory regulations. Journey to 
Milan. Dangers. Madame Malibran's courage. The 
muleteer. 

The day before Madame Malibran's departure 
from Lucca, the cholera broke out at Leghorn, 
where the quarantine laws were immediately put 
in force. 

Before she quitted Lucca, Madame Malibran 
wrote the following letter to the Marquis de Lou- 
vois : 

" 2d September, 1835. 

" Come speedily to Milan. We 

are off from this place as quick as we can go ; 
flying, not from the fear of the cholera, but the 
prospect of the cordons sanataires, and a thousand 
other rigorous measures which this disorder has 
introduced, to the utter destruction of my unfortu- 



212 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

nate impressario. JVon dico niente di noi. You 
must guess all about us. The Duke has valiantly 

run away. The most pious D has done the 

same, and has forgotten to leave any funds to 
meet the choleric attack to which his retainers may 
be exposed. So be it. Some folks take great care 
of themselves for the love of God and their con- 
fessors, having before them the wholesome proverb, 
Qui trop embrasse m<il etreint. .... 

" It appears that the Duke V i is in a dread- 
ful panic about the cholera, and already repents 
having engaged me. Nevertheless I am told they 
expect me at Milan with devotion, being fully per- 
suaded my appearance will act as a sort of cam- 
phor bag, and drive away infection. As to me, I 
have no fear of myself; my only horror is, playing 
to empty benches. I confess that is 

" I believe there is but one remedy, and that is, 
to lead a gay life, to go to balls, eat and drink 
homoeopathically, and leave the rest to Providence. 

" I trust the marchioness is in good health. She 
was so kind to me, I can never be sufficiently 
grateful. I am out of spirits, for every body is 
speaking of cholera, death, and purgatory, till I 
fancy myself quite up to the neck in the latter. So 
I'll not annoy you further with my complaints, 
hoping soon to see you at Milan. 

"Adieu — adieu. By-the-by, pray write to good 

Monsieur , and tell him I've not forgotten 

him. I trust you received my first letter safe. I 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 213 

mentioned in it that we had spent a very pleasant 
day with Madame de Lagrange, who talked much 
of you. Adieu. 

" I remain," &c. 

The sanatory regulations adopted to check the pro- 
gress of the contagion were so severe, that it was 
with difficulty Madame Malibran could reach Milan, 
where she was bound to appear in the beginning of 
September. That month had now commenced, and 
she had only a few hours left. The roads in the 
direction of Modena were already guarded, for the 
disease had shown itself in that neighbourhood, and 
no conveyances were allowed to pass. 

Notwithstanding these obstacles, Madame Mali- 
bran determined on fulfilling her engagement. One 
road only was open, but that presented dangers and 
difficulties which no female but herself would have 
dared to encounter. But Madame Malibran in- 
stantly resolved to travel by this latter road. Next 
morning she started by way of Carrara and La- 
venza ; but finding the quarantine laws extended 
there, she deemed it advisable to try the mountain 
passage by Carrara, which was nothing more than 
a mule track formed along the verge of several 
dreadful precipices. Nothing daunted, Maria set 
out : a second carriage followed her, containing 
some of her attendants. 

To describe the difficulties, the imminent dangers 
she encountered during this journey, would be impos- 



214 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

sible. In some parts the road was so narrow, that 
while the wheels on one side rested on terra firma, 
those on the other were overhanging a terrible abyss, 
and were supported by cords which it required about 
thirty peasants to hold. 

The hardy muleteers themselves often shrank 
before the appalling terrors of the journey ; but Ma- 
dame Malibran encouraged them by her cheerful 
smiles and her happy confidence. With a look of 
gayety and courage she accompanied them on horse- 
back, occasionally singing to them, and using every 
endeavour to keep up their spirits. 

As she passed through several miserable villages, 
she bestowed charity on the wretched inhabitants, 
who refused to believe she was any thing less than a 
princess of the first rank. 

At Carrara a poor sculptor requested that she 
would sit to him for her bust. She instantly alighted 
from her horse, gave him a sitting for half an hour, 
and then continued her journey. 

Just before she arrived, a muleteer was thrown 
from his mule, which had suddenly become restive. 
Madame Malibran herself dressed his wounds, and 
when, on recovering, he declared his fear of again 
mounting, she instantly desired him to take her 
horse, and getting upon the mule, she soon brought 
the refractory animal to proper subjection. 



OP MADAME MALIBRAN. 215 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 

The cholera panic. Difficulty of obtaining food. Money re- 
ceived in basins of vinegar. Madame Malibran's engage- 
ment at Milan. Terms of her contract with Duke Visconti. 
Domzetti's Maria Stuardo. Political allusions. Suppres- 
sion of the opera. High favour enjoyed by Madame Mali- 
bran at Milan. Attentions shown to her on her departure. 
Her arrival in Paris. Marriage of Madame Malibran and 
M. de Beriot. Musical party. Thalberg's performances 
on the piano-forte. Madame Malibran's donation to the 
poor. 

Notwithstanding the courage with which Ma- 
dame Malibran struggled against the difficulties of 
her journey, yet she had a still harder task in her 
endeavour to soothe the alarms of the panic-struck 
country people, who fled from the approach of 
every stranger as from the harbinger of death 
itself. 

Our travellers were never allowed to stop for a 
moment in a village or town. Permission to enter 
was accompanied by a condition that they should 



216 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

pass quickly through without halting. They were 
frequently compelled to journey on for four-and- 
twenty consecutive hours without food, and were 
obliged to sleep in the open air, or in some outhouse, 
where the rats, more bold than the human species, 
failed not to visit them during their slumbers. 

When they got food, it was sometimes almost 
thrown at them, and the money they paid for it 
was received in basins of vinegar. The authorities 
read the bill of health exhibited to them, at a dis- 
tance. No person ventured to come in contact 
with another. Never was terror so generally pre- 
valent. 

In spite of these adverse circumstances, Madame 
Malibran arrived at Milan in good health and 
spirits. Her reception was most flattering. The 
following sketch of her agreement with Duke 
Visconti will show how highly her talents were 
appreciated. 

" Four hundred and twenty thousand francs, 
(£16,800,) with a palace to lodge in, a carriage 
and a free table, for one hundred and eighty per- 
formances, to be distributed through five seasons, 
viz. 

" Autumn 1835. 

" Carnival commencing the 10th of December, 
and ending the 10th of March, 1836. 

" Autumn 1836. 

" Carnival, until March, 1837. 

" Autumn 1837." 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 217 

The two first seasons were the only ones which 
she was enabled to fulfil. She played in Otello, I 
Capuletti, La Sonnambula, and in Vaccai's Gio- 
vanna Grey. She was also very successful in 
Domzetti's Maria Stuardo ; but in consequence of 
several political allusions in that opera, it was after 
a few evenings withdrawn. 

The energy with which Madame Malibran gave 
these points, created uneasiness in the government. 
This circumstance caused the suppression of that 
beautiful opera. 

At Milan our fair artiste was courted by the 
very highest society. She was asked to every 
fete* and considered the chief ornament of every 
saloon. 

On the day of her departure, every person of dis- 
tinction in the place left their cards for her. At 
night, after her performance, she was conducted to 
her palace by a procession of young nobles bearing 
torches. On her arrival at her residence* (the 
Palazzo Visconti,) she found the garden brilliantly 
illuminated, while a military band, stationed on the 
banks of the canal, played several grand airs. 
Next day, gold and silver medals were circulated 
among her admirers, exhibiting her likeness on 
the one side, and a complimentary allegory on the 
other. 

She arrived in Paris about the end of March, 
where every preparation was made for her mar- 
riage* 

VOL. h 19 



218 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

She now seemed to be restored to happiness, for 
the false position in which she had for so long been 
placed had always weighed heavily on her mind. 
She was anxious to become the wife of De Beriot, 
in order to calm the scruples of her conscience, and 
to possess a legal right to his affections. Every day 
she appeared to become more devotedly attached to 
him. 

The marriage took place on the 20th of March, 
in presence of several of the mutual friends of the 
bride and bridegroom. The Marquis de Louvois 
and Monsieur Perignon were the official witnesses. 
In the evening they assembled at the residence of 
Monsieur Troupenas, the music publisher, where 
the party were entertained by a little concert. Ma- 
dame de Beriot, her husband, Thalberg, and Rossini, 
were the principal performers. The joy which the 
occasion inspired, added a fresh charm to their 
superior talents. This was the first time Madame 
Malibran had heard Thalberg, and she was quite 
enchanted by his performance. 

That evening she gave one thousand francs to the 
poor of Paris. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 219 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

The Gamin de Paris. BourTe, the comic actor. Visit to 
Brussels. Concerts for the benefit of the Polish refugees. 
Return to London. Lord L . . . . An equestrian party. 
Madame Malibran's horse takes fright. Her accident. 
She conceals it from De Beriot. Its serious consequences. 

Madame Malibran remained only a few days in 
Paris, but, previously to her departure for Brussels, 
she visited several of the minor theatres. She saw 
Bouffe in the Gamin de Paris, and was delighted 
with his performance. She wept and laughed by 
turns, as he enacted the droll and the serious parts 
of this little piece. 

On her return to Brussels she determined to re- 
main quiet for some time at her residence at Ixelles, 
(half a league from the city,) but her active nature 
could not long endure this. She gave two concerts 
for the benefit of the Polish refugees, one at the 
concert rooms, and the other at the theatre. She 
was well received, and a large sum was collected. 
This was the last time she ever was heard in the 
Belgian capital, nor will the recollection of her 



220 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

seraphic tones be cherished less fervently than the 
benevolent feelings which prompted her to lend her 
talents in aid of the distressed and persecuted. 

On the 19th of April she set out for London* 
where she was again received in the most flattering 
manner. Many even thought her voice improved, 
and I firmly believe such to have been the fact, for 
she never relinquished her practice and her en- 
deavours to overcome certain w r eak notes in her 
voice. This was clearly perceptible to those who 
nightly heard her. Passages which she did not 
venture to try when she first visited England, she 
now executed with ease. 

One day, during her stay in London, Lord L 

proposed an equestrian excursion, at the same time 
offering Madame Malibran the use of a fine horse, 
which he assured her was well trained to carry a 
lady. De Beriot w r as anxious to decline the offer. 
He was averse to it for several reasons ; but as his 
wife was resolved to accept the invitation, any op- 
position on his part he knew would be fruitless. 
The party accordingly set off, but without him. 

Madame Malibran, though a most courageous 
horsewoman, on this occasion showed evident signs 
of timidity. The instant the animal displayed the 
slightest symptom of spirit, she betrayed signs 
of alarm. This probably arose from the twofold 
circumstance of her recent want of practice in 
riding, and her being already advanced in preg- 
nancy. The horse, finding her hand relax, began 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 221 

to increase his speed, and at length broke into 
a rapid gallop. Madame Malibran saw a turn- 
pike-gate before her, and beckoned to the keeper 
to shut it. The man, misunderstanding her ges- 
ture, threw the barrier wide open. The next 
moment the horse had got the bit between his teeth, 
and was dashing on at his utmost speed. Her com- 
panions, seeing her danger, instantly slackened their 
pace, thinking, if they approached her, that it would 
only tend to excite the horse, and increase the dan- 
ger of his rider. 

In a few seconds Madame Malibran felt the crutch 
which supported her knee give way, and the stirrup 
twist round her ankle. 

A second turnpike was now in sight, but no one 
near to close it. The gate consisted of a bar, which 
lifted up and down, and having been left open, now 
overhung the road about twelve feet from the level 
of the ground. This was her only chance, and, like 
a drowning man grasping at a straw, she deter- 
mined on springing upwards and catching at the bar, 
allowing her horse to leave her behind, in the hope 
that the bar would descend with her weight, and 
bring her safely to the ground. Throwing down 
the reins, she raised both her arms, and by a sudden 
spring caught a firm hold of the bar. But alas ! 
her foot was entangled in the stirrup, and in another 
instant she was dragged along the ground by the 
now infuriated animal, her head dashing every mo- 

19* 



222 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

ment against the flint stones which lay in the road. 
After being thus drawn for about thirty yards, her 
stirrup leather fortunately broke and released her. 
When her friends came up, they found her covered 
with blood. She had recived several wounds in her 
head, and her face was frightfully cut. She was in 
a state of insensibility. 

When she recovered, she found herself in bed in 
her own house. Her first question was, " Is my 
husband at home?" being answered in the negative, 
she instantly rose, went to the looking-glass, and 
began washing the blood from her face and head, 
arranging her hair, so as to conceal as far as pos- 
sible the accident which had happened. M. Bene- 
dict, one of her intimate friends, at that moment 
called in. He besought her to lie down again. 

" Not for the world/' said she. " It's a mere trifle 
— I shall be better presently ; all I desire is, that it 
may be kept a secret from De Beriot ; he will be 
miserable if he should hear of it." 

" But seeing you in this state, he must know it." 

" He shall not know it, and I will perform this 
evening as usual." 

" Are you mad ?" 

" Perhaps so ; but I'll do it." 

And again she endeavoured to hide, by every 
means in her power, the wounds she had received. 

When De Beriot returned in the evening, she told 
him she had fallen down stairs, and thus accounted 



OF MADAME MALIBRAff. 223 

for her appearance, having in the interim written to 

Lord L , begging of him not to let De Beriot 

know how the accident had really occurred. 

That evening she sang at the theatre as usual, 
but the seeds of death were already implanted in 
her. She neglected being bled, and she consulted 
no medical man. In a very short time she began 
to feel seriously the consequences of her impru- 
dence. 



224 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

A lively letter. Concert at Liege. Father L . . . . M. Guis. 
M. Mayerbeer. His hospitality at Naples. Monsieur and 
Madame C n. The Duke of Devonshire. Madame Mali- 
bran's performance at Aix-la-Chapelle. Her chateau near 
Paris. 

About the end of July, Madame Malibran re- 
turned to Belgium, where, notwithstanding her 
debilitated health, she gave a concert on the 12th of 
August. 

By the following letter it will be seen how lightly 
she could joke in a moment of severe bodily suf- 
fering. 

Brussels, 18th August, 1836. 

" Of all the wicked, deceitful men on earth, you 
are the worst. You set my mouth a watering by 

false promises, and then But, n'importe, I 

will never call you dear Father L again. I will 

scold you, although it goes against my heart to do 
so, if you do not start for Brussels the instant you 
receive this epistle. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 225 

" We shall remain here till the 14th, when there 
is a concert at Liege, where De Beriot will play, 
and I squall 

" It is now the 25th ;* you can therefore spend a 
full fortnight with us. This is the least Father L — — 
can do to please his adopted children, without preju- 
dice to little Jules. Your love for him should now 
be on the decrease, for he is of course getting older, 
and consequently more mischievous, more wicked, 
and more wise. 

" Tell him I don't forget him, and that I hope he 
is becoming generous and fond of truth, and that he 
keeps his hands and nails always clean. Do you 
recollect our fun at Venice ? I wonder what has be- 
come of my friend Vranzoni, and our companion 

M . Have you seen M. Guis ? He left London 

in despair at not having met you, and desired me to 
remember him to you most kindly. So now I have 
executed his commission, though I had hoped to do 
so in person. Is M. Mayerbeer in France ? Pray 
tell him I shall never forget his kind hospitality at 
Naples. 

" I met the other day M. and Madame C- n in 

London ; they affected scarcely to know me, fear- 
ful that any intimacy with me might injure them in 
public opinion, and more especially in that of their 
patron, the Duke of Devonshire, They cautiously 

* This part of the letter would appear to have been written 
a week subsequently to the commencement. 



226 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

shrank from every allusion to the many pleasant 

evenings we passed together at Naples. C n 

and his wife are people of the world, and only re- 
cognise those whose acquaintance can do them good. 
I confess I was foolish enough to feel vexed with 
these people, whose conduct is the more absurd, 
inasmuch as they were always glad to receive me 
at their own house, and come to mine, before the 
authorities were pleased to pronounce their formi- 
dable consent on that happy day, when your presence 
added much joy to the occasion. 

" I have not heard one word lately about good 
Mamma L. I wish you would tell me all about her 
and Minfili when you next write. 

" Charles has very bad eyes, or he would him- 
self indite a P. S. He desires me, however, to add 
his prayers to mine, and beseeches you to come 
soon to us. 

" Adieu, dear father. I embrace you with all my 
heart." 

" A few weeks after this date, Madame Malibran 
played in the Sonnambula at Aix-la-Chapelle, and 
then proceeded to France, where she had purchased 
a small property (Le Chateau deRoissy) near Paris. 
There for a time, surrounded by her friends, she for- 
got her sufferings, and became gayer than ever. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 227 



CHAPTER XL. 

Madame Malibran's impaired health. Ballads of her composi- 
tion. The Romance of Death. Benelli. Curious coinci- 
dence. Exuberant joy. Presentiment of early death. 
Madame Malibran's love of childish amusements. The 
Girolamo Theatre at Milan. Madame Malibran's peculiar 
tastes ascribable to her Moorish origin. 

Since her accident, Madame Malibran had suf- 
fered from continual headaches and nervous attacks; 
and though she never complained, yet her altered 
looks often betrayed her inward agony. In spite of 
indisposition, she continued to work hard at a set of 
ballads she had promised to compose. She would 
often labour at them with one hand, whilst with the 
other she pressed her throbbing temples, and endea- 
voured to allay the torture she suffered. Her anxiety 
to accomplish this task appeared like a presentiment 
that little life was left her to finish it. 

During her abode at Roissy, she composed the 
romance entitled Death ; the words were given her 



228 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

by Lablache, and were written by Benelli in a mo- 
ment of sardonic gayety. They were as follows : 

Ton ton, chibatte la] 
Ton ton, sono la morte, 
Ci cameriere hei presto, 
O la, apri le porte, 
Sono tre mesi. 
Che la salute in voce 
Essa mi prende a ginoco, 
Si mostra e se ne va, 
Io la salute in voce ha, 
Essa mi prende a ginoco 
Si mostra, e se ne va ; 
Ecco villane vende mia 
Conta co fra tim coro 
Ebra si sta con loro. 

Di me, non ha pieta 

Ton ton, chi batte la? 
Ton ton, sono la morte. 

It is curious that Benelli died two months after he 
wrote the above lines, and Madame Malibran died 
one month after she set them to music. This ro- 
mance was her last composition. 

Madame Malibran's alarming state of health did 
not prevent her from fully enjoying her happiness, 
in being at length the wife of the man she loved. 

In the intervals between her severe fits of head- 
ache, I have seen her indulge in the most extrava- 
gant flow of spirits. She would run about, dance, 
disguise herself, paint her face to perform burlesque 
scenes : never was joy so exuberant. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAtf . 229 

One of the most remarkable traits in Madame 
Malibran's character was her presentiment of early 
death, which was unhappily but truly accomplished. 

She felt a firm conviction that she was to die in 
the flower of her age : that long ere even her girl- 
ish gayety should have passed away, the grave was 
to receive her. This belief may in some degree ac- 
count for many of her otherwise strange whims. 
Her desire, for instance, to indulge in the amuse- 
ments of her childhood, appears to have arisen from 
this cause. She wished to preserve all her early 
pleasures, confident that when they ceased to gratify 
her, she was destined to die. She also loved toys 
to the last hour of her existence. She frequently 
nursed dolls with delight, and was in raptures when 
she went to the Girolamo Theatre (a puppet show) 
at Milan, which she frequently visited. 

These seemingly puerile tastes may also perhaps 
be ascribed to her Moorish descent, which none 
could doubt, since it was legibly written in all her 
features, and shone conspicuously when anger or 
enthusiasm lighted up her speaking countenance. 
Her passion for dancing (in which she never excelled) 
Vwas also evidently of African origin. Her tastes 
tyere certainly not those of a European* 

vol. i. 20 



230 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XLL 

Manners and habits of Madame Malibran. False and ex- 
aggerated accounts. Her love of violent exercises. Ma- 
dame Malibran accused of the too free use of strong drinks. 
The charge refuted. A nauseous beverage. Madame Ma- 
libran's strict propriety of manners. Her uncontrollable 
vivacity. Singular reply to De Beriot. 

Many false and exaggerated statements have been 
made respecting Madame Malibran's manners and 
habits of life. To the charge of being masculine 
she herself used to plead guilty, inasmuch as she 
was passionately fond of riding, and indeed of all 
violent exercises. She delighted in long walks. She 
would think nothing of travelling day and night 
during the most inclement weather ; and sometimes 
taking the reins herself, she would mount the coach- 
box, and drive amidst hail and snow. She was fond 
of skating, swimming and fencing ; in short, she ex- 
celled in every manly exercise. Yet who ever was 
more gentle in her domestic circle? Who could 
soothe the pillow of sickness with more delicate at- 
tention? Who, like Madame Malibran, could move 
the feelings by the truly feminine expression of grief? 

She has been accused of an over-indulgence in 
the use of strong drinks ; but no allowance has been 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 231 

made for the fatigues she was forced to endure, and 
the consequent necessity of stimulus. 

From this charge I can conscientiously exculpate 
her. Her favourite beverage was wine and water 
— she frequently took water only. When she had 
to sing, she was forced to take something to help 
her to sustain the exhaustion which necessarily at- 
tended her extraordinary exertions. On these oc- 
casions she usually had recourse to a mixture of 
coffee and white burgundy, or rum, sweetened with 
a great quantity of sugar. She conceived that this 
strange compound, diluted with hot water, imparted 
strength to her voice. 

One day Baron de Tremont happened to call 
just as she was going to the theatre ; she was very 
much excited. 

" What is the matter?" inquired the baron, seeing 
her lips trembling with excitement, and her eyes 
nearly starting out of her head — "what is the 
matter V 9 

" I am half mad with rage," she replied. " What 
do you think, baron ? they say I am addicted to 
drinking ; but stay — you shall know what I drink." 

With these words she took a china cup from a 
sideboard in the room, and, without giving the poor 
baron time to resist, raised it to his lips, and poured 
the contents into his mouth much against his own 
will, for it proved to be a nauseous mixture of 
honey, barley-water, and extract of tar. 

" That is not likely to intoxicate anyone, I should 
think," added Maria, as she removed the cup from 



232 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

the lips of the baron; "and yet they say I indulge 
in strong drinks." 

Her determination to overcome every obstacle 
which might prevent her from fulfilling her theatri- 
cal engagements, was another strong point in her 
character. To such an excess did she carry this 
determination, that she has been considered mad by 
several who were not well acquainted with her ec- 
centric feelings. 

On one occasion, after having dined at three 
o'clock, (as she usually did when she bad to per- 
form,) De Beriot was sitting at table with several 
friends, waiting till she was ready to proceed to the 
theatre, when, about six o'clock, she entered the 
room with an air of disappointment. 

" What ails you, Maria?' inquired her husband. 

" I have got a dreadful sore throat," she replied, 
" and am so hoarse I can't sing a note." 

" Never mind — think nothing of it. Be calm ; 
agitation will only make it worse." 

"No, I must try some remedy. Ah ! 1 see some- 
thing that will do me good ;" and before De Beriot 
had time to arrest her arm, she had seized the 
mustard-pot, and swallowed the whole of its con- 
tents. 

Of the charge of avarice I think those who have 
read the foregoing pages will acquit her. She was 
far from extravagant — she spent little or nothing 
upon herself; but to relieve the distressed, or share 
her purse with the needy, Maria Malibran was ever 
readv. 



OF MADAME MALIBRAJV. 233 

Her manners, though gay, were irreproachable. 
She delighted in what is called fun, yet she never 
suffered the slightest liberty to be taken with her. 
Those who knew her never ventured even a "double 
entendre" in her presence. She abhorred every 
thing approaching to grossness, and, in the midst of 
her greatest hilarity, a single word verging on 
impropriety would recall her to the most serious 
mood. 

Her liaison with De Beriot she looked upon as 
a marriage, though the law lingered ere it con- 
firmed the fact by pronouncing a divorce from M. 
Malibran, whom she regarded merely as her nomi- 
nal husband ; and she frequently compared her first 
marriage to that of Esmeralda with the poet Grin- 
goire in Notre Dame de Paris. 

Her vivacity was almost superhuman. Fre- 
quently, on coming home from the theatre, she would 
begin dancing about, jumping over chairs, and play- 
ing all sorts of antics. When De Beriot endea- 
voured to dissuade her from these childish pranks, 
her answer was (like every thing else she did) 
strange and original : " My dear Charles, you don't 
understand my nature. I cannot take premeditated 
repose ; it can only come when I am compelled by 
exertion to have recourse to it. I cannot economize 
my strength — I use it just as it. comes. When I 
try to restrain my flow of spirits, I feel as if I should 
be suffocated." 

20* 



234 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XLII. 

Subterraneous vaults. Madame Malibran's inspection of them. 
Her pretended dream. She leaves Roissy to fulfil her en- 
gagements in England. Proceeds to Manchester. Her 
extraordinary state of excitement. Lablache. Rehearsal 
in the church. Effect of the organ on Madame Malibran. 
Hysterical fits. The duo in Andronico. 

During her stay at Roissy, some workmen, whilst 
digging in her garden, discovered a range of vaults 
several feet below the surface of the earth. This 
naturally excited the curiosity of all the inmates of 
the chateau, and on the instant a party was formed 
to inspect the subterraneous vaults. Maria en- 
treated most strenuously to be allowed to accom- 
pany them, but De Beriot firmly refused to allow 
her; the consequence was, she was left at home* 
and on the return of the company she was in an ill 
humour, and retired early to rest. 

At five o'clock next morning she rose, and having 
put on a light robe de chambre, stole out of the 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 235 

house nnperceived by any one. She went straight 
to the cottage of one of the labourers who had dis- 
covered the caves, and having got some persons to 
accompany her, descended and examined the sub- 
terranean chambers. This done, she returned pri- 
vately to the chateau, and appeared at the breakfast- 
table as if nothing had happened. At dinner she 
pretended she had had a strange dream, during 
which she imagined herself in the vaults, and pro- 
ceeded to describe them so accurately that every 
one was amazed. It was not until many days after 
that she gave a clue to the mystery. 

Towards the end of September, Madame Mali- 
bran quitted Roissy for England, where she was 
anxiously looked for. She proceeded almost im- 
mediately to Manchester, where she took up her 
abode in the same hotel as Lablache, for whom 
she felt a sincere friendship. Notwithstanding her 
alarming state of health, she determined to fulfil her 
engagements at the music-meetings and concerts, 
as she had agreed some time before. 

On the evening of her arrival at Manchester, she 
was unusually gay ; she played and sang for seve- 
ral hours, and wished Lablache to tell her which he 
liked best of her two last romances, " The Brigand," 
or " Death." 

When she began the lattqf, her excitement was 
extraordinary. She became ^painfully agitated. Her 
powers so wonderfully developed themselves on this 
occasion, that Lablache became absolutely alarmed, 



236 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS - 

and begged of De Beriot to make her retire to rest : 
this she did, after many entreaties. 

Next day she attended rehearsal at the church, 
but no sooner did she hear the organ than she burst 
into tears : this was not looked upon as any thing 
strange, she being continually subject to nervous 
attacks. On the day following she attended to take 
part in the oratorio about to be performed in the 
church ; but no sooner did the notes of the organ 
again strike on her ear than she burst into an un- 
controllable fit of laughter, and was carried out 
fainting. She soon recovered, when she came back 
and sang with the greatest effect an air by Cimarosa. 

In the evening she insisted on singing at the 
theatre, and got through her task without apparent 
fatigue. The following day she again attempted to 
assist at the oratorio, but was carried out of the 
church in a state of insensibility, which continued 
for several hours. She recovered in time to per- 
form again at the theatre, where, in spite of every 
opposition, she insisted on going. There, like a 
beautiful spectre, she again presented herself. Her 
personal appearance on this occasion bore the im- 
press of sickness ; her countenance bespoke suffering 
and melancholy, but never was her voice finer or 
more powerful. In the duet from Andronico, which 
she sang with Madagie Caradori, she was highly 
applauded. 

The acclamations of thousands rang in her ears, 
as, overcome by exertion, she tottered from the 



OF MADAME MALIBRAN. 237 

orchestra ; but when the cries of " encore" min- 
gled with these cheers, her whole strength appeared 
to return. A new life seemed to animate her ; she 
drew herself up to her full height, her eye suddenly 
kindled with triumph, and once more returning, she 
gracefully acknowledged the compliment. She sang 
the duet a second time ; but from the theatre she was 
carried to her deathbed. 



238 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 



CHAPTER XLIII. 

Alarming condition of Madame Malibran. Convulsion fits. 
Proposal to bleed her. Alleged error in the mode of medi- 
cal treatment Sensation excited by Madame Malibran's 
illness. Her anxious inquiries respecting De JBeriot's per- 
formance. Her last words. Dispute respecting her re- 
mains. Chapel erected to her memory at Lacken. 

Scarcely had she reached her hotel, when she 
was attacked by violent convulsions. A medical 
gentleman was sent for, who, on his arrival, wished 
to have her bled. Several of her friends opposed 
this, but the doctor insisted on it ; and De Beriot 
being at that moment engaged in his professional 
duties at the concert, there was no one present who 
could interpose any authority as to the mode of 
treating the patient. Madame Malibran, who for a 
moment recovered her consciousness, said, " Let the 
doctor do as he wishes ; it signifies but little now." 
She was accordingly bled. It has been alleged, 
though I believe erroneously, that this bleeding 
caused her death. It was certainly not judicious, 



OF MADAME MALIBRAtf. 239 

but it could be of little consequence at that period. 
Had she been bled immediately after her fall from 
her horse, the probability is, that her life would have 
been preserved ; but when the doctor was called in 
at Manchester, there appears no ground for believ- 
ing that any human skill could have preserved her. 

The alarming illness of Madame Malibran caused 
the greatest sensation in Manchester. Every per- 
son of respectability called to inquire after her. The 
door of the hotel at which she resided was beset by 
an anxious crowd. The newspapers gave daily 
bulletins of the state of her health, and some hopes 
were for a time entertained of her ultimate reco- 
very; but, alas! her malady made awful strides. 
In two or three days all pain had left her, and she 
fell into a kind of stupor. For hours she lay with- 
out showing signs of life ; once only did she again 
appear conscious of the passing scene, when, speak- 
ing with difficulty, she asked, " How De Beriot had 
played? whether he had been much applauded?" 
On being assured of his success, she smiled, sank 
back on her pillow, and never again spoke. Her 
soul fled without a sigh, without a struggle : — not a 
groan, not a start, accompanied her parting breath. 
For several minutes she had ceased to exist, ere 
those around her couch were aware of the fact. 

The committee appointed for conducting the Man- 
chester musical festival wished to pay De Beriot the 
full amount of his wife's engagement, though she had 
only performed twice. This he refused. 



240 MEMOIRS AND LETTERS 

The disputes about the burial of her remains, and 
the anxiety of the people of Manchester to possess 
the sacred relic, prove how much they esteemed 
her. The subsequent exhumation, and other cir- 
cumstances, are too well known to require further 
comment. 

A chapel is about to be erected over her tomb at 
Lacken, and her bust is to be placed in it. At that 
sacred shrine let her admirers devoutly kneel, and, 
while offering up a prayer, let them recall, as a beau- 
tiful dream, the tones of the once idolized Malibran ! 



END OF VOL. I. 



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